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Mike Pence Is Clearly Not Happy With Olympic Skater Adam Rippon Saying He Supports Anti-Gay Conversion Therapy

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Pence Calls Rippon ‘Misinformed’

Olympic skater Adam Rippon clearly had thought a lot about Vice President Mike Pence heading up the U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea when he told USA Today Sports earlier this week he would not go out of his way to meet him. And Mike Pence clearly didn’t give a lot of thought about his response, but clearly he was angry that the nation’s first openly-gay athlete to qualify for Olympic winter games knew enough about his anti-gay beliefs to deliver an educated blow.

Rippon told USA Today Pence “funded gay conversion therapy,” saying, “I would absolutely not go out of my way to meet somebody who I felt has gone out of their way to not only show that they aren’t a friend of a gay person but that they think that they’re sick.” 

Pence’s office released a statement denying Rippon’s claim.

“The vice president is proud to lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics and support America’s incredible athletes,” the statement says, according to The Nation’s Dave Zirin. “This accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact. Despite these misinformed claims, the vice president will be enthusiastically supporting all the U.S. athletes competing next month in Pyeongchang.”

But Pence does support – or has supported – “conversion,” or “reparative” therapy, that falsely purports to make gay people straight. Judges have ruled conversion therapy is fraud. Nearly every major medical association in the U.S. and many around the world have positions stating it sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) not only do not work, but can be harmful. There are too many cases that show it can lead to suicide or suicide attempts.

Mike Pence didn’t bother to make a statement against conversion therapy and just how harmful it can be, although he could have. He didn’t care to take this opportunity to show actual support for the nation’s first openly-gay athlete to qualify for Olympic winter games. He didn’t care to apologize for his past statement supporting conversion therapy. He didn’t care to use this opportunity for anything except pushing back against Rippon.

At The Nation, Zirin notes that Pence’s website for his 2000 congressional campaign (here’s an archived copy) included the position that “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”

The Vice President calls Rippon’s remarks “baseless.” Clearly they are not. He says Rippon’s “accusation is totally false and has no basis in fact.” Clearly that’s false.

Rippon didn’t totally refuse to talk with Pence.

“If I had the chance to meet him afterwards, after I’m finished competing, there might be a possibility to have an open conversation,” Rippon also told USA Today.

“He seems more mild-mannered than Donald Trump,” the Olympic skater added. “But I don’t think the current administration represents the values that I was taught growing up. Mike Pence doesn’t stand for anything that I really believe in.”

Zirin also talked with Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler.

“The most important piece of what Adam said about Mike Pence is his willingness to sit down with the vice president for an open conversation,” Zeigler told Zirin. “We have let the divisions in our country get way out of hand, and Adam’s openness to conversation with someone he disagrees with shows the leadership we’ve come to expect from our greatest American athletes. I wish we would all take his lead.”

Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

 

 

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MN Police Officer Sentenced 3.5 Years for Death of George Floyd

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Former Minneapolis police officer J. Alexander Keung has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison for aiding and abetting manslaughter in the death of Black city resident George Floyd.

Keung, age 29, had accepted a plea deal in order to avoid an additional charge of aiding and abetting second-degree murder. His guilty plea acknowledged that the restraining holds used by police on Floyd were excessive and likely to cause serious harm.

Video of Floyd’s May 25, 2020 murder at the hands of city police captured footage of Keung kneeling on Floyd’s back while another officer knelt of the man’s neck. for over nine minutes, officers applied pressure to Floyd while he laid face down in the street, crying and telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while also calling out for his mother.

Video of Floyd’s murder sparked international outrage and inspired protests against institutional racism and police brutality.

Keung is the fourth and final police officer to receive prison time for his role in Floyd’s death. He will serve his new sentence and a federal sentence for Floyd’s death concurrently, serving a total of about 2 1/2 years for the killing.

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'ARE YOU KIDDING?!'

Virginia Republican Files Bill Defining a Fertilized Egg as a Human

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Virginia State Delegate Marie March (R) has pre-filed House Bill 1395, a law that would define life as beginning at fertilization.

“Life begins at conception and each person is accorded the same rights and protections guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution of the United States,” the proposed bill states.

The proposed bill would effectively outlaw all abortions in the state and even endanger the use of Plan B (aka. “The morning-after pill”), a medication that prevents fertilized egg cells from attaching to a woman’s uterine wall.

The bill could also effectively criminalize in vitro fertilization, a method of inducing pregnancy that uses fertilized eggs and discards any unused ones.

Even though Republicans control the state’s House of Delegates, it’s unclear if the bill would have any chance of passing the state’s Democratic-led Senate. The legislature won’t reconvene until January 11, 2023.

Virginia currently allows a woman to get an abortion within roughly 26 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has proposed passing a law that would reduce that window to 15 weeks, a period of time in which most women may not even realize they’re pregnant.

In response to March’s bill the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance said in a statement, “In the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and despite the vast majority of Virginians who oppose it, Virginia’s anti-abortion elected officials keep proving there are no limits to their extremism and true intentions to ban abortion for all Virginians.”

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'A WAR FOR AMERICA’S DEMOCRACY'

Georgia GOP Says Its Voting Restrictions “Backfired” & Helped Dems Win Senate Seat

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When two Republicans lost Georgia’s special runoff senate elections in January 2021, state Republicans in the General Assembly re-wrote voting laws to restrict absentee ballots and give voters fewer days to vote in future runoff elections.

However, after Republicans lost yet another runoff election for Georgia’s Senate seat — with Herschel Walker losing to his Democratic competitor, Rev. Raphael Warnock, earlier this month — state Republicans want to re-re-write the rules, hopeful of a more favorable outcome.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), the official who oversees the state’s voting procedures, said he plans on giving three proposals to lawmakers when they return to the General Assembly in January.

“[The proposals] include forcing large counties to open more early-voting locations (in an attempt to reduce the hours-long lines some voters waited in) … lowering the threshold candidates must achieve to avoid a runoff from 50 percent to 45 percent; and instituting a ranked-choice instant-runoff system that would not require voters to come back to the polls again after the general election,” The New York Times reported.

To be clear, it’s unclear whether these changes would’ve helped Walker win. But they stand in contrast to the changes state Republicans made to voting laws following their failed January 2021 Senate runoff ambitions.

The changes after that time severely restricted the types of people eligible to receive an absentee ballot. While 24 percent of the January 2021 vote came via mail-in absentee ballots, the rule changes resulted in 5 percent of mail-in votes coming in for the January 2022 runoff.

Republicans also lowered the number of in-person early voting days to five (though the rule change allowed counties to add extra days.) The Times found that 28 of Georgia’s 159 counties opted to add extra in-person early voting days — 17 of the counties that did largely backed Warnock while 11 backed his challenger.

Before the recent run-off election, Raffensperger also tried to enforce a state law forbidding in-person early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Warnock successfully sued to prevent the law from going into effect.

Overall, the changes may have “backfired,” Republicans told The Times, actually encouraging Democratic voters to come out in greater numbers.

While Republicans point to the large turnout of runoff voters as “proof” that their changes didn’t discourage voting, Warnock’s campaign criticized the changes, saying that such restrictions shouldn’t make it harder for people to vote in the first place.

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