‘It Often Doesnâ€™t Matter What the Majority of Americans Believe’
Michelangelo Signorile is a veteran journalist who for many years has hosted his own show on SiriusXM radio. He’s also the editor-at-large for HuffPost’s Queer Voices. And he’s out with an eight-point alert for LGBT people: our civil rights are in danger. In fact, our rights “are already being stripped away right before our eyes,” heÂ warns in a postÂ atÂ HuffPostÂ titled, “Itâ€™s Now Undeniable That LGBTQ Rights Are In Danger Of Being Rolled Back.”
Signorile says it’s “naive and enormously dangerous” for LGBT people to think our “rights are secured â€• while not seeing the perils ahead.”
By way of example, SignorileÂ says “some recent exchanges and interactions Iâ€™ve had lead me to believe that many people, queer and straight, still believe that LGBTQ rights are secure and advancing. They point to public opinion polls, to cultural changes and to progress even in the most conservative corners of the country.”
“One person, educated in the history of the LGBTQ movement, told me that he couldnâ€™t believe that the Supreme Court would undo something that the majority of Americans now supported â€• marriage equality â€• and implied a lot of the sounding of the alarm was for the conspiracy-minded.”
Many people think that.
One highly-respected LGBT civil rights legal group, after Trump was elected, published an FAQ saying marriage was not in immediate danger. But they noted related equality rights for gay people certainly could be.
(Since then, several have noted just how easy it could be to effectivelyÂ take marriage away from same-sex couples. Or even overturn Obergefell. And some states are working to revoke marital benefits from same-sex couples.)
“Even though the Court is extremely unlikely to take away your marriage, there are ways short of reversing a marriage decision in which the new administration could make life harder for same-sex spouses and their children, such as by permitting discrimination against these families in some contexts,” Lambda Legal wrote in December last year. “It is also possible that the new administration could reduce the respect given by federal government agencies to the marriages of same-sex spouses.”
We’re seeing that, and similar actions against LGBT people being taken already. Betsy DeVos’ Dept. of Education offers several Â examples, as does Jeff Sessions’ DOJ.
Here’s the crux of Signorile’s very valid argument:
“It often doesnâ€™t matter what the majority of Americans believe â€• over 90 percent support universal background checks on gun purchases, after all, but we canâ€™t get the legislation passed. The Supreme Court has handed down ruling after ruling that reversed precedents and defied the majority of Americansâ€™ beliefs on voting rights, corporate money in politics, immigration and so many other issues. What is happening in our country right now is clear: a powerful minority is in control and is trying to get the fix in so that it can rule from the minority for a long time to come. “
And to prove it, he offers these eight events:
- “Donald Trumpâ€™s Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch”
- “Mississippi last year passed the most far-reaching anti-LGBTQ law”
- “Texas joined Michigan, South Dakota and Mississippi in allowing bans on adoption to same-sex couples by state-funded adoption agencies”
- North Carolina’s newly-elected Democratic governor signed a so-called repeal of HB2 that “still bans local LGBT rights ordinances statewide and regulates transgender people until some time in the future â€• when it will surely be extended.”
- “The Trump administration has thrown transgender students overboard”
- “Trump has essentially made LGBTQ people invisible,” by not issuing an LGBT Pride month declaration and removing questionsÂ about sexual orientation and “refusing to collect vital data”
- “Some Democratic strategists are advising that the party move away from â€œ’identify politics,’ and that means steering clear of LGBTQ rights”
- And this vital observation: “Trumpâ€™s cabinet and undersecretaries include some of the most ardent foes of LGBT rights, from Housing Secretary Ben Carson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and his director of the Office of Civil Rights at HHS, Roger Severino, an anti-LGBTQ advocate who last year accused the Obama administration of attempting to ‘coerce everyone, including children, into pledging allegiance to a radical new gender ideology.’ Already, weâ€™re seeing important programs that affect LGBT people in jeopardy.”
“None of us can believe any of the rights weâ€™ve fought for are safe,” Signorile rightly warns. “But more importantly, we need to wake up and see that they are already being stripped away right before our eyes.”
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Burn Bags and Use of Personal Email: Justices’ Security Practices Even Worse Than Leak Investigation Showed
Multiple sources familiar with the court’s operations told CNN that justices often used personal email accounts for sensitive communications, employees used printers that didn’t produce logs and “burn bags” to collect sensitive materials for destruction were often left open and unattended in hallways.
“This has been going on for years,” one former employee said.
Some justices were slow to adopt email technology — they were “not masters of information security protocol,” according to one source — and court employees were afraid to confront them over the security risks.
Supreme Court marshal Gail Curley in her investigative report noted that printer logs intended to track document production were insufficient, but a former employee said employees who had VPN access could print documents from any computer, and remote work during COVID-19 shutdowns and otherwise meant draft opinions could have been taken from the building in violation of court guidelines.
Curley’s report noted that court methods for destroying sensitive documents should be improved, but three employees said striped burn bags supplied to chambers were often left sitting out unattended, and each justice had their own protocols for disposing of court documents.
A source familiar with court security practices said some colleagues stapled burn bags shut, while others filled them to capacity and left them near their desks, and others simply left them sitting in hallways where anyone with access to non-public areas could have taken sensitive materials.
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 ticketed 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.
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