Monday, December 24, 2012

Episcopal Diocese Of Northwestern Pennsylvania To Allow Blessing Of Same-Sex Unions

The Rev. Sean Rowe was a member of the Franklin Area School District Board during the making of "Out In The Silence," a documentary film chronicling the challenges faced by LGBT residents of Venango County. One of the stories in the film follows the courageous struggle of a gay teen and his mom who had the courage to stand up to a climate of extreme anti-gay bullying in Franklin High School. Sean Rowe's silence at the time made him an accomplice to the violence many students experienced.

As reported in this article, he is progressing ever-so-slowly in his practice of Christianity as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

But still a long, long way to go ... 

from Erie Times-News:

Same-sex couples will be able to have their unions blessed in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Right Rev. Sean Rowe (right), bishop of the Erie-based 13-county diocese, announced Thursday that he will allow clergy to conduct the blessings.

However, priests and congregations won't be forced to offer it. Churches that want to use the trial liturgical rite, which was approved by the Episcopal Church's General Convention in July, will go through a process of study, reflection and conversation before receiving permission from the bishop.

"I support blessing same-sex unions, but some of my faithful fellow Episcopalians do not," Rowe said in a statement. "The Episcopal Church in northwestern Pennsylvania is a place where people of good conscience can disagree charitably about such matters. We respect and love each other, and we are united in the hope and healing of Jesus Christ."

Rowe said there are people in the diocese with strong opinions on both sides but they're willing to continue to "live together and discern God's will together."

He and the Rev. John Downey, dean of Erie's Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, said Episcopalians have spent 30 years taking a careful, deliberate and prayerful approach to understanding same-sex relationships.

"We've been considering this for so many years, it's really not a surprise we've come to this point," Downey said.

Any of the diocese's congregations can choose to hold a conversation about blessing the unions, officials said. If a congregation's priest and governing board of laypeople decide they want to offer the service at their church, they will go to Rowe for permission.

He said he expects some to begin the process immediately, others to do it in the future and some not to participate at all.

Downey anticipated that his congregation would be conducting those conversations in the first part of 2013. He said he thinks the liturgical rite for same-sex blessings will be supported at the downtown cathedral.

Downey said, however, that there's no rush to be the first in the diocese to hold the service, which he said is similar to a marriage liturgy. No St. Paul members had asked for the blessing yet, he said Thursday.

At least one half of a couple seeking it must be a communicant in good standing of a congregation of the diocese, which has about 4,700 Episcopalians.

The provisional rite was approved by the Episcopal Church in July but a blessing couldn't be given until the first Sunday of Advent, which was Dec. 2, and the start of the church year.

Some dioceses, including Erie, weren't quite ready by that date. Rowe said the local policy didn't go out until Wednesday.

It can be viewed on the diocese's website at under resources for clergy.

Some church members and leaders had already been talking about adding the blessing to their ministry.

"I'm wholeheartedly for it," Joyce Gieza, a member of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Lawrence Park Township, said.

"We're an inclusive church, which is why I'm there," she said. "I don't want to exclude anybody." The Rev. Shawn Clerkin, vicar of St. Mary's, said his congregation has begun the process of discernment and is ready to seek Rowe's permission to offer the blessing there.

Clerkin said it is a way to be welcoming to same-sex couples but at the same time the church doesn't want to isolate people who oppose the liturgy.

An opponent of the blessing couldn't be reached for comment.

Episcopalians tend to be very respectful of one another's point of view and it's important for them to continue to show one another the same love and appreciation even if they disagree on this issue, Clerkin said.

He and Rowe said they've heard from couples appreciative of the new blessing but none is in the works to receive it yet. Rowe said the first isn't likely to occur for a month or so.

"We have many faithful gay and lesbian Christians living in faithful monogamous relationships that are seeking the blessing of the church," Rowe said. "We've had a fair number express interest."

Mike Mahler, the editor of Erie Gay News and a local pagan, said acceptance of gays and lesbians varies by congregation, but it was good to see the local Episcopal diocese offering this blessing.

"That is a wonderful thing," he said.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gingrich Says GOP Should ‘Deal With Reality’ And Accept Legal Marriage Equality

Maybe Venango County-based Hate Groups Will See The Light Soon Too

from ThinkProgress:

In a stunning reversal, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said this week that he thinks his party needs to “accommodate and deal with reality” and get on board with legal equality for same-sex couples. Gingrich, who pushed the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through Congress in 1996, has been one of the nation’s most consistent opponents of marriage equality.

The Huffington Post reports:

On gay marriage, meanwhile, Gingrich argued that Republicans could no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion. While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.

“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”

Despite Gingrich’s two divorces and history of infidelity, he has attempted to present himself as a defender of traditional marriage throughout his unsuccessful campaign for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He signed the National Organization for Marriage’s pledge to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex unions. He said the movement toward marriage equality was a “temporary aberration that will dissipate” and compared same-sex relationships to “pagan behaviors.”

What a difference an election makes.

After voters in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington all rejected Gingrich’s marriage inequality position, Gingrich now thinks marriage equality is “inevitable.”

Noting that his own openly-lesbian half-sister works for the Human Rights Campaign and that he has gay friends who have married legally in Iowa, Gingrich observed, “I didn’t think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It didn’t seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing.”

Pictured above, Diane Gramley, President of the Venango County-based Hate Group known as the American Family Association of Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hate Groups Doin' What They Do Best: HATIN'

James Dobson, American Family Association Blame Shooting on Gays, Lack of God

The religious right leader said acceptance of gays contributed to the tragedy, while the likes of 
Mike Huckabee and Bryan Fischer said it's due to America's abandonment of God.

from The Advocate:

Several conservative Christian leaders across the nation are trying to make sense of Friday's deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., which lead to the murders of 26 people — 20 of them children — and they're pointing the finger at a "Godless" nation that they believe is too accepting of liberal evils like abortion and marriage equality.

It all started with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Just hours after news of the massacre broke on Friday, Huckabee said the tragedy should come as no surprise to a culture that has "systematically removed God from our schools." Huckabee clarified his statements on his Fox News program Sunday, saying he didn't really think that prayer in schools would have prevented the massacre, "but we've created an atmosphere in this country where the only time you want to invoke God's name is after the tragedy," according to The Huffington Post.

The antigay American Family Association's Bryan Fischer (right) echoed Huckabee's claims, telling listeners on his AFA radio show that God could have protected the victims of the massacre but declined to do so because "God is not going to go where he is not wanted," according to video posted on LGBT blog Towleroad.

On Monday, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson took to the airwaves to blame America's acceptance of marriage equality and abortion specifically for the violence in Connecticut. Speaking on his morning radio show, Dobson outlined a litany of sins that he said have driven God away from America.

Right Wing Watch has the audio and transcript:

"Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I'm not talking politically, I'm not talking about the result of the November 6 election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

"I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn't exist, or he's irrelevant to me and we have killed 54 million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

"And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that's what's going on."

Never wanting to be outdone, the antigay haters at the Westboro Baptist Church took to Twitter on Friday to blame the gunman's actions on American acceptance of marriage equality. But when Westboro announced plans to picket Sandy Hook Elementary and the funerals of the victims, the "hacktivist" collective Anonymous hacked the group's accounts and posted key members' names and phone numbers online.

While right-wing "people of faith" find scapegoats for Friday's massacre, LGBT activists including the Human Rights Campaign expressed condolences and hopes for peace.

"We extend condolences, thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims as well as to the entire state of Connecticut which is still reeling from this senseless act violence," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement. "We note with sadness that it was less than a week since two innocent lives were lost at a mall in Oregon, and we offer our well-wishes and support to law enforcement officials investigating these truly heinous crimes.”

Sentenced to Prison for the Crime of Love in Cameroon - Is This What Hate Groups Want in America?

Cameroon Upholds 3-Year Term for Gay Text Message

from The Associated Press:

DOUALA, Cameroon (AP) — An appeals court on Monday upheld a three-year sentence against a man found guilty of homosexual conduct for sending a text message to another man saying: "I'm very much in love with you."

Activists said the court's ruling in Yaounde, the capital, marked yet another setback for gays and lesbians in Cameroon, widely viewed as the most repressive country in Africa when it comes to prosecuting same-sex couples.

Jean-Claude Roger Mbede, 32, had been provisionally released on bail in July after serving a year and a half in prison. His lawyer has 10 days now to file an appeal to the country's Supreme Court.

Holding back tears Monday, he said he wasn't sure whether he could withstand more jail time given the conditions he faced there.

"I am going back to the dismal conditions that got me critically ill before I was temporarily released for medical reasons," he told The Associated Press by telephone. "I am not sure I can put up with the anti-gay attacks and harassment I underwent at the hands of fellow inmates and prison authorities on account of my perceived and unproven sexual orientation. The justice system in this country is just so unfair."

Mbede's provisional release earlier this year followed pressure from rights activists over his deteriorating health aggravated by malnutrition and repeated assaults.
Homosexuality is illegal in many African countries, and lawmakers in Liberia, Nigeria and Uganda have recently presented legislation that would strengthen anti-gay laws that are already on the books.

But even in those countries, prosecutions are rare or nonexistent, said Neela Ghoshal, a researcher in the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

Cameroon's penal code calls for sentences ranging from six months to five years for people found guilty of "sexual relations with a person of the same sex." And last year, 14 people were prosecuted for homosexuality and 12 were convicted, according to Justice Ministry records cited by Human Rights Watch.

"It's the country that arrests, prosecutes and convicts more people than any other country that we know of in Africa for consensual same-sex adult conduct," Ghoshal said.

"In most of these cases there is little or no evidence. Usually people are convicted on the basis of allegations or denunciations from people who have claimed to law enforcement officials that they are gay."

She said many suspects were tortured or otherwise treated poorly in custody until they gave confessions, which were then used as evidence against them.

In October, two men were convicted of homosexuality because of their "effeminate" appearance and because they were drinking Bailey's Irish Cream, which was viewed as a drink favored by gay men, according to a statement issued Nov. 16 by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, said Mbede had already been significantly harmed by the case against him because of pervasive anti-gay stigma in Cameroon.

"Roger said he had to leave the university where he was studying because of the attention from the case and because of the mounting threats and fear of violence that have been very concerning to him," Banks said. "He's worried that he won't be able to have a normal life in Cameroon because of the amount of attention it's brought to him."

Lawyers defending those accused of homosexuality also have faced death threats including Mbede's attorney, Alice Nkom.

A text message sent in October to Yaounde-based lawyer Michel Togue, who has also defended people accused of homosexuality, similarly threatened his children. Attached to the message were photos of the children leaving school.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Kill the Gays -- American Evangelicals in Uganda

by Jim Burroway, Box Turtle Bulletin:

American pastor David Dykes has traveled from Tyler Texas, where he pastors Green Acres Baptist Church, to Uganda to offer his apparently unqualified support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Here, he appears on NTV, Uganda’s largest independent television station to denounce the State Department’s efforts to avert a human rights catastrophe and says that American churches will come together to fully back Uganda if the U.S. withdraws aid:

Dykes: I’m extremely upset that our state department is putting pressure on Uganda to recognize homosexual behavior. And I’m praying that Uganda will say, “We don’t want your money, America. It is blood money. It is sin money.” I hope that you will continue to stand strong on what the Bible defines as the definition of a real marriage.

…Already in Canada, there’ve been pastors who have been arrested for simply saying from their pulpit that a union between two men or two women is an abomination in the sight of God. A Canadian pastor was arrested for that. … But there’s also maybe a law soon that says we could be arrested if we say anything bad about gay marriage or about homosexual behavior. It would fall under the category in America of “Hate Crimes.”

… In America, Christians are going to put as much pressure as we can on our government not to cut the aid to Uganda over this issue. But if they do decide to do that, we’ll let our displeasure be known, but we’ll try to step in as the Church in America to try to make up sending resources over here, especially to the churches. We hope to stand alongside the believers of Uganda during this time of crisis.

Dykes’s Green Acres Baptist Church (Facebook page here), which is a member of the Southern Baptist conference, is one of the sponsors of Pastoral Care Ministries (Facebook page here). It appears that Dykes was in Uganda as part of a Pastoral Care Ministries effort. The PCM web site describes their work in Uganda (Emphasis in the original):

The work has just begun with Parental Care Ministries USA, yet the Lord has accomplished much in a short time. The effort in Parental Care SchoolMbarara Uganda, our first area of focus, has brought many improvements to the quality of life for this group of orphans and their staff of employees. Our accomplishments in 2008 included a new 16 passenger van for the ministry, dormitories for the orphans, new classrooms for the school, a uniform for every orphan, school desks, and teaching bibles for the teachers and pastors. …

Our other focus arm of the ministry is working with Pastor Emmy’s 50+ ruralUgandan pastors. We try to gather them from all over Uganda at least twice a year for conferences. We are assisting them with resources to help equip their churches to minister to local people. We have started a program called Cows for the Kingdom where pastors are given a cow to milk to provide for their family and sell the excess milk for a daily profit of a few dollars a day. Nearly 2/3 of all our pastors have a cow now. Pastors are also provided a bicycle which they use effectively sharing God’s Word wherever they go.

The other focus of work regarding the pastors is the School of Ezra that Pastor Emmy and Reuben direct. Here they teach these young pastors many Biblical truths and motivate them to share God’s Word with the reached and unreached in their particular areas. The school of Ezra currently meets at Mbarara Parental Care School when the children are on holiday.

It is worth remembering exactly what it is that David Dykes is so eager to support. The full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is available online here (PDF: 847KB/16 pages). Our examination of the bill’s nineteen clauses are available here:

Clauses 1 and 2: Anybody Can Be Gay Under the Law. The definition of what constitutes “homosexual act” is so broad that just about anyone can be convicted.

Clause 3: Anyone Can Be “Liable To Suffer Death”. And you don’t even have to be gay to be sent to the gallows. There has been talk of removing the death penalty — which has not happened yet; it’s just talk — and replacing it with a life sentence. But can anyone seriously imaging that spending a lifetime in Uganda’s notorious Luzira prison is any better? Especially once your fellow prisoners learn that you were sent there for “aggravated homosexuality”?

Clause 4: Anyone Can “Attempt to Commit Homosexuality”. All you have to do is “attempt” to “touch” “any part of of the body” “with anything else” “through anything” in an act that does “not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”

Clauses 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10: How To Get Out Of Jail Free. The bill is written to openly encourage — and even pay — one partner to turn state’s evidence against another.

Clauses 7, 11, and 14: Straight People In The Crosshairs. Did you think they only wanted to jail gay people? They’re also targeting family members, doctors, lawyers, and even landlords.

Clause 12: Till Life Imprisonment Do You Part. And if you officiate a same-sex wedding, you’ll be imprisoned for up to three years. So much for religious freedom.

Clause 13: The Silencing of the Lambs. All advocacy — including suggesting that the law might be repealed — will land you in jail. With this clause, there will be no one left to defend anyone.

Clause 14: The Requirement Isn’t To Report Just Gay People To Police. It’s To Report Everyone. Look closely: the requirement is to report anyone who has violated any the bill’s clauses.

Clauses 16 and 17: The Extra-Territorially Long Arm of Ugandan Law. Think you’re safe if you leave the country? Think again.

Clause 18: We Don’t Need No Stinking Treaties. The bill not only violates several international treaties, it also turns the Ugandan constitution on its head.

Clauses 15 and 19: The Establishment Clauses For The Ugandan Inquisition. These clauses empower the Ethics and Integrity Minister to enforce all of the bill’s provisions. He’s already gotten a head start.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Decoding Gay on HuffPost Live

Scientists may have finally solved the puzzle of what makes a person gay, and how it is passed from parents to children. What are the implications of this discovery?

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Wedge Has Lost Its Edge, Except For Hate Groups Like The American Family Association Of Pennsylvania

Supreme Court and Prop 8 - A Longer Walk Down the Aisle

by Hank Plante for SFGate:

In the words of those other Supremes, You Can't Hurry Love.

After months of waiting, Friday's news that the U.S. Supreme Court will finally hear California's Proposition 8 case as well as the validity of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, means all this has dragged on longer than a Kardashian's wedding.

It was already bad enough for anxious Californians, as tens of thousands of gays and lesbians in this state were left at the altar on election night, when voters in four other states delivered what gay writer Andrew Sullivan called, "The biggest night for gay rights in electoral history."

But here in the state known as a trend-setter, we've been dealt a different hand: a four-year engagement in the courts that ultimately led to the U.S. Supreme Court now hearing the cases.

Californians watched from the sidelines as gay and lesbian marriages were approved for the first time by voters in Washington, Maryland and Maine (and an attempt to write a same-sex marriage ban into Minnesota's constitution failed). The November election results meant that 15 percent of Americans now live in states where same-sex marriage is legal. California same-sex marriages would double that figure if they're allowed to happen.

In addition to the Prop. 8 case, the Supreme Court will also act on DOMA, which denies federal recognition of same-sex marriage. Like Prop. 8, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional by federal appeals courts.

Much has been written about how DOMA denies more than 1,100 federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, including the ability of one partner to inherit another's Social Security benefits.

But for a real-time glimpse of DOMA's impact, look at last month's news from Seattle. There, the Boeing Co. is saying it is undecided about awarding pensions to surviving gay spouses, despite the fact that Washington State voters just passed same-sex marriage.

It seems that pensions are covered under federal law, which trumps state law, and under DOMA there is no recognition of same-sex marriage. Boeing's spokesman told the Seattle Times, "This is obviously a new law and we'll take a closer look to see how it impacts us across the board."

But union negotiators at Boeing say the company has "no intention of providing such coverage."

Meanwhile, while all this excitement about same-sex marriage is thanks to the Supreme Court, it stands in stark contrast to how quiet the subject has been during the presidential election. Once President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, it never seemed to dominate the campaigns. And there's a reason for that.

An important study from the Pew Research Center this year found same-sex marriage last on a list of voters' concerns. In fact, it was number 18 on that list, following issues like the economy, health care and terrorism. Gay marriage has lost its punch as a political issue, even for Republicans.

As Evan Wolfson of the group Freedom to Marry says, "The wedge has lost its edge."

Even young evangelicals are more accepting of gay peers than their elders. A 2011 poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found nearly half of young evangelicals favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.

None of this is any surprise to political analysts like Dan Schnur, former communications director for both McCain and California Gov. Pete Wilson. Schnur, who is now director of the Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, says: "The age demographics on the same-sex marriage issue are almost unique in public opinion annals. I've never seen a generational trend so pronounced. Call it the 'Glee-ification' of America, but younger voters in both parties have been trending much more strongly in support of same-sex marriage than their older counterparts."

And the numbers bear that out.

A Field Poll released this year found 59 percent of California voters now support same-sex marriage, which is an exact reversal of the 59 percent who opposed it back in 1977, the first year Field polled on the subject.

Can we draw any clues from history on what the Supreme Court will do?

For an answer, look no farther than the U.S. Supreme Court's own history on gay rights: The court upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law in the 1986 Bowers vs. Hardwick case. But then, in 2003, the court reversed itself and struck down a similar Texas sodomy law in the Lawrence vs. Texas case. With that, the court essentially decriminalized homosexuality in the United States.

No one exemplifies the evolution in thinking on gay rights more than Sen. Dianne Feinstein. When she was mayor of San Francisco in 1982, she vetoed a domestic partnership bill that the Board of Supervisors had passed. A popular joke in the gay community back then was, "Dianne must think 'domestic partners' is a housecleaning service."

Feinstein drew criticism from gays and lesbians again on the day after the 2004 presidential election, when John Kerry lost to George W. Bush. Standing on the front lawn of her Presidio Terrace home, Feinstein was asked by a reporter if San Francisco's premature issuance of same-sex marriage licenses hurt Democrats.

Her now famous reply: "I think the whole issue has been too much, too fast, too soon."

But fast-forward to 2012, and it was Feinstein who was the most prominent politician to speak out against Prop. 8, and who has been leading the charge in the U.S. Senate to repeal DOMA.

Prop. 8's passage is how it all wound up in the courts.

After the botched "No on 8" campaign, the backlash against its LGBT leaders was so strong that when Hollywood's Rob Reiner enlisted heavyweight lawyers David Boies and Ted Olson to take Prop. 8 to court, they refused to allow the gay groups from joining their case. All sides now say they have patched up their differences, but it remains ironic that some of the strongest voices for gay rights in California's court case have been three straight men: Reiner, and the two lawyers he raised money to hire: the odd couple of Boies and Olson. Boise is an old-fashioned liberal, and Olson is an old-fashioned conservative, from back in the days when conservatives believed the government should stay out of your bedroom.

The bottom line now is we will know something definitive from the highest court in the land, even if it means waiting a little longer. As Jon Davidson, from the pro-gay Lambda Legal Defense Fund puts it, "The tide is not turning; it's turned."

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning reporter who covered the Prop. 8 election and trial for CBS 5 TV News in San Francisco.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Venango County Hate Group Among Right-Wing Hysterics Promoting Discrimination Against Disabled

Senate Fails To Ratify U.N. Treaty On Disabilities

Venango County Hate Group, American Family Association of Pennsylvania, Among Right Wing Groups Opposing Elimination of Discrimination Against Disabled People

National Public Radio - December 5, 2012

Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday blocked ratification of a U.N. treaty that would have helped countries protect the rights of disabled people. It was inspired by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Opponents argued, among other things, it would threaten the ability of parents in this country to home school their children.

Listen to the Story HERE

Monday, December 3, 2012

First LGBT State Legislator in Pennsylvania Comes Out

Republican Rep. Mike Fleck Becomes
First Openly Gay Legislator in Pennsylvania History

from The Keystone Student Voice:

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) and LGBT youth across Pennsylvania commend Republican State Rep. Mike Fleck (R-81) for coming out today, becoming the first openly LGBT lawmaker in the Keystone State. Not only is Fleck the first and only legislator currently in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly who is openly gay, he is also one of only two openly gay Republican state legislators nationwide.

This is a historic and significant event for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania General Assembly that reflects the true diversity of her citizens is a better state for us all. Fleck said he hopes his openness will help others better understand the journey people have to take to live an authentic life, according to the Huntington Daily News.

Rep. Fleck represents a largely conservative and rural district stretching over Blair, Huntingdon, and Mifflin counties in Central Pennsylvania. In the breaking article in his local paper today, he noted that he remains committed to the same political ideals as before the announcement, as he has since he was first elected in 2006.

PSEC has been proud to work with Rep. Fleck. Prior to his big announcement, Rep. Fleck was already a friend of PSEC as a cosponsor of the Pennsylvania Safe Schools Act (HB 2636), which is a landmark anti-bullying bill to update Pennsylvania’s weak safe schools statute. Supporters of the PASS Act have appreciated considerable diversity of cosponsors, in terms of political affiliation, gender, and now–as of today–sexual orientation.

“Rep. Fleck has made history in becoming the first openly gay member of the Pennsylvania legislature. We could not be more proud of his courageous decision to be open and affirming of his identity.” said PSEC Executive Director Jason Landau Goodman.

PSEC wrote personally to Rep. Fleck on the day of his announcement. “On behalf of the thousands of LGBT youth we represent across the state, we thank you for coming forward and becoming a role model for us.”

PSEC is excited to continue working with Rep. Fleck in helping make the Commonwealth a better place for all Pennsylvanians, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Republicans Helped Same-Sex Marriage Win At The Polls


By Walter Olson for the Washington Post:

After years of defeats, same-sex-marriage advocates scored a remarkable 4-0 sweep of state ballot contests on Nov. 6. One major reason: This year, significant numbers of Republicans voted their way. That should give pause to a GOP establishment that has alienated many younger voters and independents with its stance on the issue and now faces the prospect of dissent among its core constituents as well.

The evidence comes straight from a close study of the election returns in Maryland, Maine and Minnesota. (Washington state, with its unique system of mail voting, has been slower to report its results in detail. I’ve based my analysis on the other three states that had same-sex-marriage contests.)

Let’s break it down.

The Maryland ballot referendum, Question 6, essentially asked voters to confirm or reject a new law allowing same-sex marriage. In 11 of the 18 counties that Mitt Romney carried, Question 6 fared better than President Obama, a sign that GOP voters had crossed over in support. While the phenomenon could be seen everywhere from farm towns to blue-collar inner suburbs, the biggest swings tended to come in affluent bedroom communities. At one precinct in Hunt Valley, north of Baltimore, with 2,116 votes cast, there was a 28 percentage-point swing, leading to a landslide for Romney and the ballot question: Obama drew a paltry 37 percent, but Question 6 carried the precinct with a whopping 65 percent.

The margins weren’t as large in other precincts, but swings of 10, 15 and 20 points were common. (I should mention that I volunteered on my own time for the Question 6 effort, working especially among libertarians and conservatives on its behalf.)

In Minnesota, where voters were asked to ban same-sex marriage through a state constitutional amendment, precinct returns show that suburban Republicans broke from their party in droves to defeat the ban. According to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, 47 towns around the Twin Cities area voted for Romney while opposing the measure, known as Amendment One. Exurban Scott County, the state’s fastest growing, narrowly turned down Amendment One, even as it gave Romney a comfortable 56.5 percent of its vote.

To be sure, rural parts of Minnesota saw ticket-splitting the other way, with some Democratic-leaning areas backing the marriage ban. But within commuting distance of the Twin Cities, the defections from the Republican line were deep and unmistakable. Romney won easily in such lakeside Hennepin County towns as Orono, Deephaven and Shorewood. Conventional wisdom would have them voting for the marriage ban as well — but they rejected Amendment One by 60 percent or more, an outcome that suggests a significant change in demographics and attitudes from even a decade ago.

In the large and politically competitive middle-class suburb of Eagan, Minn., home to former GOP governor Tim Pawlenty, Romney wound up losing by nine points, about the same as his statewide margin. That was close, though, compared with the results for Amendment One, which Eagan voters buried by a 22-point margin.

One quick way to look for towns where Republicans were especially likely to approve same-sex marriage is to consult the state-by-state “Best Places to Live” series, which highlights communities with high incomes, high education levels and low rates of property crime. The list of “Best Places to Live in Minnesota” is dominated by outlying Twin Cities suburbs, most of which tilt strongly GOP: Sixteen of the 20 supported Romney — six of them by 60 percent or more. But only one town among the 20 voted to ban same-sex marriage, and by an anemic 50.28 percent (had nine voters there switched sides, the outcome would have been different).

Maine voters were asked to legalize same-sex marriage through a referendum that lost narrowly in 2009. This time it won, with 53 percent of the vote. Again, Republicans helped secure the victory.

Maine, unlike Maryland and Minnesota, has a shortage of classic Republican bedroom suburbs; most of the suburbs of its only sizable city, Portland, lean Democratic. Consider, however, the five towns atop Yahoo’s “Best Places to Live in Maine” list. The Bangor suburb of Hampden voted both for Romney and for freedom to marry. The other four towns, all Portland suburbs — Cumberland, Falmouth, Yarmouth and Cape Elizabeth — went for Obama by votes ranging from 53 to 63 percent, and then in each case registered a further 10- to 13-point swing toward same-sex marriage.

Fox News sponsored exit polls in each of the three states; of self-described Republicans, between 21 percent and 25 percent said they were breaking from the party’s official position in their vote. The pollsters asked voters which was closer to their own view: “Government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals” or “Government should do more to solve problems.” Of voters who said government is doing too much — prime prospects for anyone trying to assemble a majority Republican coalition — 34 percent to 38 percent sided with same-sex marriage advocates.

So where next for the Republican Party on this issue? Despite the GOP’s historic identification with individual liberty and with getting the government’s nose out of citizens’ business, no one expects it to endorse same-sex marriage anytime soon. But one plausible path would be a GOP call for leaving the issue to the states, with New York going one way, for instance, and Texas another. That would probably capture a consensus among a broad range of active Republicans, fit reasonably well with the party’s other ideological stands and still distinguish its position from the Democratic Party’s support for same-sex marriage in its 2012 platform.

The GOP has left itself little room to maneuver. When some in the Romney campaign took an interest in the “leave it to the states” position this fall, they discovered that the candidate, like several of his former rivals for the nomination, had already signed a pledge circulated by the National Organization for Marriage committing him to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Although many national polls now show support for marriage equality, the national Republican platform continues to endorse the same deeply out-of-touch proposal.

If and when the party’s leadership changes its mind, a whole lot of suburban Republicans will be murmuring under their breath, “About time.”

Walter Olson is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and the author of “Schools for Misrule.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Woman Charged in Shooting Death of Husband at Forest County Camp - Where Is The American Family Association of Pennsylvania When We Need 'Em?


FOREST COUNTY, Pa. (EYT) – Homicide charges have been filed against a Butler woman in connection with the alleged murder of her husband at a camp in Forest County on Saturday night.

58-year-old Ruth Maxine Angert, of Butler, is accused of killing her husband, 68-year-old Larry B. Angert, at a camp in Tionesta Township, Forest County, Pa.

Officials say Angert died as a result of an apparent gunshot wound to the face.

Ms. Angert, who faces charges of Criminal Homicide and Aggravated Assault, was placed in Warren County Jail in lieu of $150,000 bail.

She faces a preliminary hearing on Nov. 27.

Police say the case remains under investigation.

Venango County Corrections Officer Charged with Sex Crimes - Where Is the American Family Association of Pennsylvania When We Need 'Em?


FRANKLIN, Pa. (EYT) – A corrections officer is accused of having sex with female inmates at the Venango County Prison.

Franklin police say an investigation into a reported sexual assault of a female inmate at Venango County Prison revealed that 50-year-old William W. Hunter of Oil City, engaged in sexual activity with two female inmates while he was on duty.

A report filed by Franklin Police Detective Kevin J. Lewis alleges sexual activity occurred between Hunter and two female inmates on various occasions.

Hunter was arraigned before District Judge Andrew Fish on one count of felony aggravated indecent assault, one count of felony institutional sexual assault, and two counts of misdemeanor official oppression.

He was placed in Clarion County Jail in lieu of $60,000 cash bail.

During the course of the investigation, Franklin police were assisted by District Attorney Marie T. Veon and the Venango County Prison’s administrative staff.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jon Stewart Looks At Bill O'Reilly's 'Traditional America'

The re-election of Barack Obama heralds the death of traditional America... as far as Bill O'Reilly is concerned anyway. Jon Stewart would beg to differ, however.

As it turns out, America has a long tradition of a more diverse class displacing the ruling class, and man, does the ruling class never like it... even if they were once that more diverse class themselves. In fact, did you know that once upon a time, Americans didn't think too highly of people named O'Reilly?

Watch Jon's thorough take down of O'Reilly's "traditional America" lamentations above.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sex, Lies, Email, Petraeus, CIA, Pentagon -- What Was That You Said About 'Gays In The Military' ??

from the Associated Press:

The sex scandal that led to CIA Director David Petraeus' downfall widened Tuesday with word the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is under investigation for thousands of alleged "inappropriate communications" with another woman involved in the case. Some of the material was "flirtatious," an official said.

Even as the FBI prepared a timeline for Congress about the investigation that brought to light Petraeus' extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta revealed that the Pentagon had begun an internal investigation into emails between Gen. John Allen and a Florida woman involved in the case.

Some of the 20,000-plus pages of documents and emails between Allen and Tampa socialite Jill Kelley were "flirtatious," according to a senior defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the case publicly. It wasn't immediately clear who wrote the flirtatious notes – Allen, Kelley or both.

Allen succeeded Petraeus as the top American commander in Afghanistan in July 2011, and his nomination to become the next commander of U.S. European Command and the commander of NATO forces in Europe has now been put on hold, as the scandal seemed certain to ensnare another acclaimed military figure.

In a White House statement early Tuesday, National Security spokesman Tommy Vietor said President Barack Obama has held Allen's nomination at Panetta's request. Obama, the statement said, "remains focused on fully supporting our extraordinary troops and coalition partners in Afghanistan, who Gen. Allen continues to lead as he has so ably done for over a year."

It was Broadwell's threatening emails to Kelley, a Petraeus family friend, that led to the FBI's discovery of communications between Broadwell and Petraeus indicating they were having an affair. Petraeus acknowledged the affair when he resigned from the CIA post on Friday.

In the latest revelations, a Pentagon official traveling with Panetta to Australia said "inappropriate communications" – 20,000 to 30,000 pages of emails and other documents from Allen's communications with Kelley between 2010 and 2012 – are under review. The official would not say whether they involved sexual matters or whether they are thought to include unauthorized disclosures of classified information. He said he did not know whether Petraeus is mentioned in the emails.

Allen has denied wrongdoing. He was due to give Panetta a recommendation soon on the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals in 2013. If Allen was found to have had an affair with Kelley, he could face charges of adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The decision by the FBI to hand off the Allen information to the military seems to indicate the issue is not one involving the handling of classified information, but rather some other issue.

The Petraeus case has sparked an uproar in Congress, with lawmakers complaining they should have been told earlier about the probe that has roiled the intelligence and military establishment.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called the latest revelations in the case "a Greek tragedy."

"It's just tragic," King said Tuesday on NBC's "Today" show. "This has the elements in some ways of a Hollywood movie or a trashy novel."

The issue of what the FBI knew, when it notified top Obama administration officials, and when Congress was told, has brought criticism from lawmakers, who say they should have been told earlier.

The White House wasn't informed of the FBI investigation that involved Petraeus until Nov. 6, Election Day, although agents began looking at Petraeus' actions months earlier, sometime during the summer. Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that she first learned of the matter from the media late last week, and confirmed it in a phone call to the then-CIA director on Friday.

That was the same day Obama accepted Petraeus' resignation, and the 60-year-old retired Army general, who headed U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before taking charge of the CIA, acknowledged an affair with Broadwell, and expressed regret.

Defending the notification timing, a senior federal law enforcement official pointed Monday to longstanding policies and practices, adopted following abuses and mistakes that were uncovered during the Nixon administration's Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. The Justice Department – of which the FBI is part – is supposed to refrain from sharing detailed information about its criminal investigations with the White House.

The FBI also looked into whether a separate set of emails between Petraeus and Broadwell might involve any security breach. That will be a key question Wednesday in meetings involving congressional intelligence committee leaders, FBI deputy director Sean Joyce and CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

A federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the investigation, said the FBI had concluded relatively quickly – and certainly by late summer at the latest – that there was no security breach. Absent a security breach, it was appropriate not to notify Congress or the White House earlier, this official said.

Extramarital affairs are viewed as particularly risky for intelligence officers because they might be blackmailed to keep the affair quiet. For military personnel, adultery is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

According to two federal law enforcement officials, the FBI initially began a criminal investigation of unsigned, harassing emails that were sent, beginning last May, to Kelley, a Tampa socialite. She and her husband, Scott, were longtime friends of Petraeus and his wife, Holly. FBI agents traced the alleged cyber harassment to Broadwell and during that process discovered she was exchanging intimate messages with a private Gmail account. Further investigation revealed that account belonged to Petraeus, under an alias.

Petraeus and Broadwell apparently used a trick, known to terrorists and teenagers alike, to conceal their email traffic, one of the law enforcement officials said.

Rather than transmitting emails to the other's inbox, they composed at least some messages and instead of transmitting them, left them in a draft folder or in an electronic "dropbox," the official said. Then the other person could log onto the same account and read the draft emails there. This avoids creating an email trail that is easier for outsiders to intercept or trace.

Agents later told Petraeus that Broadwell sent emails warning Kelley to stay away from the general and carrying a threatening tone.

Friends and former staff members of Petraeus told The Associated Press that he has assured them his relationship with Kelley was platonic, although Broadwell apparently saw her as a romantic rival. They said Petraeus was shocked to learn last summer of Broadwell's emails to Kelley.

Petraeus also denied to these associates that he had given Broadwell any sensitive military information.

FBI agents who contacted Petraeus told him that sensitive, possibly classified documents related to Afghanistan were found on her computer, the general's associates said. He assured investigators they did not come from him, and he mused to his associates that they were probably given to her on her reporting trips to Afghanistan by commanders she visited in the field there.

One associate also said Petraeus believes the documents described past operations and had already been declassified, although they might have still been marked "secret."

Broadwell had high security clearances as part of her former job as a reserve Army major in military intelligence. But those clearances are only in effect when a soldier is on active duty, which she was not at the time she researched the Petraeus biography.

The FBI concluded there was no security breach.

Nevertheless, FBI agents conducted a search of Broadwell's Charlotte, N.C., home on Monday. And the criminal investigation continued into the emails to Kelley, including whether Petraeus had any hand in them. At that point in late summer, FBI Director Robert Mueller and eventually Attorney General Eric Holder were notified that agents had uncovered what appeared to be an extramarital affair involving Petraeus.

Broadwell and Petraeus have each been questioned by FBI agents twice in recent weeks, with both acknowledging the affair in separate interviews. The FBI's most recent interviews with Broadwell and with Petraeus both occurred during the week of Oct. 29, days before the election, one of the law enforcement officials said. The FBI notified Obama's director of national intelligence, James Clapper, of the investigation on Tuesday, Nov. 6 – Election Day.

In another twist, an FBI agent who was a friend of Kelley and who passed along information from her to the agents who conducted the investigation, was subsequently told by his superiors to steer clear of the case because they grew concerned that the agent had become obsessed with the investigation, a federal law enforcement official said. Before the case involving Petraeus got under way, the agent had sent Kelley shirtless photos of himself, according to this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

Broadwell co-authored a biography titled "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," published in January. She wrote that she met Petraeus in the spring of 2006 while she was a graduate student at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and she ended up following him on multiple trips to Afghanistan as part of her research.

Petraeus, 60, told one former associate he began an affair with Broadwell, 40, a couple of months after he became CIA director in September 2011. They mutually agreed to end the affair four months ago, but they kept in contact because she was still writing a dissertation on his time commanding U.S. troops overseas, the associate said.

Petraeus told former staffers and friends that he had regularly visited the Kelleys' home overlooking Tampa Bay. Kelley, 37, served as a sort of social ambassador for U.S. Central Command, hosting parties for the general when Petraeus was commander there from 2008-10.

Jill Kelley regularly kept in touch with Petraeus when he became commander of the Afghanistan war effort, the two exchanging near-daily emails and instant messages, two of his former staffers said. But those messages were exchanged in accounts that his aides monitored as part of their duties and were not romantic in tone, the staffers said.

Petraeus and his family are devastated over the affair – especially Mrs. Petraeus, who "is not exactly pleased right now" after 38 years of marriage, said Steve Boylan, a friend and former Petraeus spokesman who spoke to him over the weekend.

Broadwell, married with two young sons, has not returned phone calls or emails seeking comment.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wedge Politics and Racial Division No Longer Working for Hate Groups Like the American Family Association

African Americans and Latinos Spur Gay Marriage Revolution

from the Washington Post (11/12/12):

Last Tuesday’s election was a watershed moment for the gay marriage movement. Voters in three states voted to legalize it — something no state had done before — and a fourth state voted against a proposed ban.

And if the movement catches on in other states, African Americans and Latinos will be a big reason why.

In fact, exit polls now show a majority of both groups now favor gay marriage.

Maine, Maryland and Washington state all passed new gay marriage laws on Tuesday, while voters in Minnesota defeated a ban.

In some ways, the pro-gay marriage votes were a long time coming, with polls showing more and more Americans moving in support of gay marriage in recent years. But the fact that voters in multiple states signed off on gay marriage all at once on Tuesday suggests a significant leap forward, in addition to the incremental progress.

And while the usual suspects continue to favor gay marriage — young people and non-religious people — exit polls show the most important shifts in support among two key communities: African Americans and Hispanics.

Black voters, in particular, have been slow to embrace gay marriage, even as the vast majority vote Democratic and the rest of the party has embraced gay marriage. On Tuesday, though, they played a major role in passing Maryland’s new gay marriage law.

Maryland is heavily Democratic, which made it a likely candidate to be one of the first states to vote for gay marriage. But the state is also heavily African-American (29 percent) and has a significant Latino population (8 percent), which made passage something less than certain.

When California voted for a gay marriage ban in 2008, 70 percent of African Americans voted for it, and when North Carolina overwhelmingly passed a similar measure earlier this year, many cited the black vote as a big reason. (Shortly after the ban passed in North Carolina, President Obama came out in favor of gay marriage.)

On Tuesday in Maryland, though, 46 percent of African Americans supported gay marriage. And according to national exit polls, 52 percent of both black and Latino voters who turned out Tuesday said they support gay marriage in their states.

(The largest shift came from black women, of which 59 percent now support gay marriage, compared to 42 percent of black men — a huge gender gap.)

That’s a big turnaround from recent years. In 2008 and 2009, a Pew Research Center survey showed just 28 percent of African Americans and 39 percent of Latinos backed gay marriage. And by 2010, support in those communities was rising slower than it was among whites.

The exit polls suggest both groups have now moved in large numbers toward supporting gay marriage. Their shifts may not be bigger than other demographics, but the fact that they are shifting at all (after sticking to their opposition) is what’s really significant here.

And given their affinity for President Obama — 93 percent of African Americans and 71 percent of Latinos voted for the president — it’s not unreasonable to think that his support had an impact.

That said, the other three states (besides Maryland) that voted in favor of gay marriage Tuesday are among the whitest states in the country, with Maine being the whitest and Minnesota being 83 percent white.

That’s not surprising, as support has also increased among many other demographics, including Republicans and older people.

But the fact is that the states that are the most Democratic — and thus the likeliest candidates to pass gay marriage laws — tend to be more diverse (California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, etc.). And if African Americans and Latinos are as onboard with gay marriage as the exit polls suggest, the four states that voted in favor of gay marriage on Tuesday might be the first of many.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Good News: Christian Right Spread Word; Fewer Voters Listened

by Laurie Goodstein for the New York Times:

Christian conservatives, for more than two decades a pivotal force in U.S. politics, are grappling with Election Day results that repudiated their influence and suggested that the cultural tide — especially on gay issues — has shifted against them.

They are reeling not only from the loss of the presidency but from what many of them see as a rejection of their agenda. They lost fights against same-sex marriage in all four states where it was on the ballot, saw anti-abortion-rights Senate candidates defeated and two states vote to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

It is not as though they did not put up a fight; they went all out as never before: The Rev. Billy Graham dropped any pretense of nonpartisanship and all but endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Roman Catholic bishops denounced President Barack Obama's policies as a threat to life, religious liberty and the traditional nuclear family. Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition distributed more voter guides in churches and contacted more homes by mail and phone than ever before.

"Millions of American evangelicals are absolutely shocked by not just the presidential election but by the entire avalanche of results that came in," R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., said in an interview. "It's not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn't get out. It did get out."

"It's that the entire moral landscape has changed," he said. "An increasingly secularized America understands our positions and has rejected them."

Conservative Christian leaders said that they would intensify their efforts to make their case but were just beginning to discuss how to proceed.

"We're not going away; we just need to recalibrate," said Bob Vander Plaats, president and chief executive of The Family Leader, an evangelical organization in Iowa.

The election results are just one indication of larger trends in American religion that Christian conservatives are still digesting, political analysts say. Americans who have no religious affiliation — pollsters call them the "nones" — are now about one-fifth of the population overall, according to a study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The younger generation is even less religious: About one-third of Americans ages 18-22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Americans who are secular are far more likely to vote for liberal candidates and for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who said they had no religion voted for Obama, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.

"This election signaled the last where a white Christian strategy is workable," said Robert P. Jones, chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and education organization based in Washington.

"Barack Obama's coalition was less than 4 in 10 white Christian," Jones said. "He made up for that with not only overwhelming support from the African-American and Latino community, but also with the support of the religiously unaffiliated."

In interviews, conservative Christian leaders pointed to other factors that may have blunted their impact in this election: They were outspent by gay rights advocates in the states where marriage was on the ballot; comments on rape by Senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana were ridiculed nationwide and alienated women voters; and they never trusted Romney as a reliably conservative voice on social issues.

However, they acknowledge that they are losing ground. The evangelical share of the population is both declining and graying, studies show. Large churches like the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God, which have provided an organizing base for the Christian right, are losing members.

"In the long run, this means that the Republican constituency is going to be shrinking on the religious end as well as the ethnic end," said James L. Guth, a professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Meanwhile, religious liberals are gradually becoming more visible. Liberal clergy members spoke out in support of same-sex marriage, and one group ran ads praising Obama's health care plan for insuring the poor and the sick.

In a development that highlighted the diversity within the Catholic Church, the "Nuns on the Bus" drove through the Midwest warning that the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, would cut the social safety net.

For the Christian right in this election, fervor and turnout were not the problem, many organizers said in interviews. White evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate — 3 percent more than in 2004, when they helped to propel President George W. Bush to re-election. During the Republican primaries, some commentators said that Romney's Mormon faith would drive away evangelicals, many of whom consider his church a heretical cult.

And yet, in the end, evangelicals voted overwhelmingly for Romney — even matching the presidential vote of Mormons: 78 percent for Romney and 21 percent for Obama, according to exit polls by Edison Research.

"We did our job," said Reed, who helped pioneer religious voter mobilization with the Christian Coalition in the 1980s and '90s, and is now founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

He said that his organization outdid itself this year, putting out 30 million voter guides in 117,000 churches, 24 million mailings to voters in battleground states and 26 million phone calls.

"Those voters turned out, and they voted overwhelmingly against Obama," Reed said. "You can't just overperform among voters of faith. There's got to be a strategy for younger voters, unmarried voters, women voters — especially single women — and minorities."

The Christian right should have a natural inroad with Hispanics. The vast majority of Hispanics are evangelical or Catholic, and many of those are religious conservatives opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion. And yet, the pressing issue of immigration trumped religion, and Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points.

"Latino Protestants were almost as inclined to vote for Mr. Obama as their Catholic brethren were," said Guth, at Furman, "and that's certainly a big change, and going the wrong direction as far as Republicans are concerned."

The election outcome was also sobering news for Catholic bishops, who this year spoke out on politics more forcefully and more explicitly than ever before, some experts said. The bishops and Catholic conservative groups helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage in the four states where that issue was on the ballot. Nationwide, they undertook a campaign that accused Obama of undermining religious liberty, redoubling their efforts when a provision in the health care overhaul required most employers to provide coverage for contraception.

Despite this, Obama retained the Catholic vote, 50 to 48 percent, according to exit polls, although his support slipped from four years ago. Also, solid majorities of Catholics supported same-sex marriage, said Jones, the pollster.

Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, Calif., who serves on the bishops' domestic policy committee, said that the bishops spoke out on many issues, including immigration and poverty, but got media attention only when they talked about abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty. Voters who identify as Catholic but do not attend Mass on Sunday may not have been listening, he said, but Catholics who attend Mass probably "weigh what the church has to say."

"I think good Catholics can be found across the political spectrum," Soto said, "but I do think they wrestle with what the church teaches."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fordham University President Blasts Ann Coulter as "Hateful and Needlessly Provocative"

by Joan Walsh for

I happen to love Fordham University. My daughter got a great education there. As president of the College Democrats, she worked well with College Republicans. I met a whole lot of them when they politely turned out the night she helped bring Howard Dean to campus; the next year, she got to moderate a question-and-answer session – to ensure fairness – when the College Republicans hosted Karl Rove. It felt to me like a lost era of civility and reason as I watched young people from the two parties get along up in the Bronx.

But now the Fordham College Republicans have invited Ann Coulter, who outdoes Karl Rove (barely, these days) in the department of divisiveness and meanness. I had a moment of regretting the mega-dollars I spent on Fordham – even though I know the clubs are free to invite whomever they like, within reason (although this tests reason). Then I saw Fordham President Father Joseph McShane’s terrific reply, which I’m printing in full.

Given the dramatic rightward shift of the Republican Party, I happen to believe that the path back to civility involves civil people not merely smiling and being civil but forcefully calling extremist Republicans out on their cruelty and extremism. Father McShane shows the way. He blasts Coulter’s message as “hateful and needlessly provocative — more heat than light” and says “her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.”

McShane notes that Fordham has been blighted by ugly racial and homophobic incidents in the last few years, and he laments the lack of “maturity” shown by his young campus Republicans in inviting the provocateur Coulter. But he says he trusts the Fordham “community” to model “the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.” Let’s hope that happens. Personally, I hope Coulter reads McShane’s statement, withdraws from the engagement and spends some time reflecting on why she’s filled with so much hate. But I’m a dreamer.

Update: Tonight, the Fordham College Republicans have cancelled Coulter’s appearance.

Here’s McShane’s whole statement, followed by the College Republicans’.

The College Republicans, a student club at Fordham University, has invited Ann Coulter to speak on campus on November 29. The event is funded through student activity fees and is not open to the public nor the media. Student groups are allowed, and encouraged, to invite speakers who represent diverse, and sometimes unpopular, points of view, in keeping with the canons of academic freedom. Accordingly, the University will not block the College Republicans from hosting their speaker of choice on campus.

To say that I am disappointed with the judgment and maturity of the College Republicans, however, would be a tremendous understatement. There are many people who can speak to the conservative point of view with integrity and conviction, but Ms. Coulter is not among them. Her rhetoric is often hateful and needlessly provocative — more heat than light — and her message is aimed squarely at the darker side of our nature.

As members of a Jesuit institution, we are called upon to deal with one another with civility and compassion, not to sling mud and impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree or to engage in racial or social stereotyping. In the wake of several bias incidents last spring, I told the University community that I hold out great contempt for anyone who would intentionally inflict pain on another human being because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or creed.

“Disgust” was the word I used to sum up my feelings about those incidents. Hate speech, name-calling, and incivility are completely at odds with the Jesuit ideals that have always guided and animated Fordham.

Still, to prohibit Ms. Coulter from speaking at Fordham would be to do greater violence to the academy, and to the Jesuit tradition of fearless and robust engagement. Preventing Ms. Coulter from speaking would counter one wrong with another. The old saw goes that the answer to bad speech is more speech. This is especially true at a university, and I fully expect our students, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff to voice their opposition, civilly and respectfully, and forcefully.

The College Republicans have unwittingly provided Fordham with a test of its character: do we abandon our ideals in the face of repugnant speech and seek to stifle Ms. Coulter’s (and the student organizers’) opinions, or do we use her appearance as an opportunity to prove that our ideas are better and our faith in the academy — and one another — stronger? We have chosen the latter course, confident in our community and in the power of decency and reason to overcome hatred and prejudice.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President

From the College Republicans:

The College Republicans regret the controversy surrounding our planned lecture featuring Ann Coulter. The size and severity of opposition to this event have caught us by surprise and caused us to question our decision to welcome her to Rose Hill. Looking at the concerns raised about Ms. Coulter, many of them reasonable, we have determined that some of her comments do not represent the ideals of the College Republicans and are inconsistent with both our organization’s mission and the University’s. We regret that we failed to thoroughly research her before announcing; that is our error and we do not excuse ourselves for it. Consistent with our strong disagreement with certain comments by Ms. Coulter, we have chosen to cancel the event and rescind Ms. Coulter’s invitation to speak at Fordham. We made this choice freely before Father McShane’s email was sent out and we became aware of his feelings – had the President simply reached out to us before releasing his statement, he would have learned that the event was being cancelled. We hope the University community will forgive the College Republicans for our error and continue to allow us to serve as its main voice of the sensible, compassionate, and conservative political movement that we strive to be. We fell short of that standard this time, and we offer our sincere apologies.

Ted Conrad, President
Emily Harman, Vice President
Joe Campagna, Treasurer
John Mantia, Secretary


Another Hetero Sex Scandal. Shocking. NOT!

CIA Director Petraeus Quits Over Extramarital Affair

CIA Director David Petraeus resigned his post on Friday, confessing to having shown "extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair." The former Army general rocketed to global prominence as the man in charge of the "surge" in Iraq and later the commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama said Petraeus had led the Central Intelligence Agency "with characteristic intellectual rigor, dedication, and patriotism.

"I am completely confident that the CIA will continue to thrive and carry out its essential mission, and I have the utmost confidence in Acting Director Michael Morell and the men and women of the CIA who work every day to keep our nation safe," the president said in a written statement.

"Going forward, my thoughts and prayers are with Dave and Holly Petraeus, who has done so much to help military families through her own work. I wish them the very best at this difficult time," Obama continued.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement that did not specify a reason for Petraeus's departure but praised his colleague extensively.

"From his long, illustrious Army career to his leadership at the helm of CIA, Dave has redefined what it means to serve and sacrifice for one's country," said Clapper.

Petraeus went to work as CIA chief in September 2011 after heading up the war in Afghanistan. He had drawn fire in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attack on the American compound in Benghazi, Libya. His departure comes barely a week before he was scheduled to testify about the assault in closed-door sessions with the intelligence committees of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Petraeus' resignation letter, quoted by several news outlets, centered on his personal behavior.

"Yesterday afternoon, I went to the White House and asked the President to be allowed, for personal reasons, to resign from my position as D/CIA. After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours," he said. "This afternoon, the President graciously accepted my resignation."

Petraeus, 60, has been described as the father of the military's counterinsurgency doctrine. The charismatic officer had been cited as a possible future presidential or vice presidential prospect.

His wife Holly has worked inside the Obama Administration, serving at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

For Religious Conservatives, Election Was A 'Disaster'

But For America, The Election Was A Triumph

Listen to the story on National Public Radio:

Many religious conservatives thought this might be the year of an evangelical comeback, when voters would throw President Obama out because of his support of same-sex marriage and abortion, and his health plan's birth control mandate. It didn't work out that way.

"I think this was an evangelical disaster," says Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Mohler says white evangelicals moved in lockstep: Seventy-nine percent voted for Republican Mitt Romney, the same percentage as voted for President George W. Bush in 2004. He says they boldly telegraphed their concerns about Obama, and "our message was rejected by millions of Americans who went to the polls and voted according to a contrary worldview."

Mohler says there's a danger that evangelicals won't see this larger lesson — that they will say Obama won because of his unique story and personality.

"No, it was far more than that," he says. "Four states dealt with the issue of same-sex marriage and after 31 to 33 straight victories, we've been handed a rather comprehensive set of defeats on the issue of the integrity of marriage."

That, and the legalization of marijuana in some states, are examples of what Mohler calls "a seismic moral shift in the culture."

Others say 2012 revealed another shift.

"The understanding that the evangelical vote is a kingmaking vote, I think, is now dead," says Shaun Casey, a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary and a former Obama adviser. He says evangelicals pulled out all the stops to unseat the president.

"Billy Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association bought full-page ads in newspapers; that made no difference," he says. "Ralph Reed spent tens of millions of dollars getting out the vote in battleground states; that didn't make the difference. And you add all of that up, and it was not enough because of the changing demographics of our country."

"The power of this group to shape elections," says Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, "is limited by its size."

"They do turn out," he says. "A quarter of the electorate described themselves as white evangelicals. It's just that that's not enough to overcome the strong Democratic support of other religious groups."

Smith says Obama won 95 percent of black Protestants, three-quarters of Hispanic Catholics, 7 out of 10 Jewish voters and 70 percent of religiously unaffiliated voters, which is the fastest-growing segment of "religion."

Early on, there were signs that the power of religious conservatives might be waning, says political scientist Mark Rozell at George Mason University. In the primaries, conservative religious leaders kept trying to crown various candidates: Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum — just to avoid the Mormon, Romney, as the party nominee.

"But they ended up with Mitt Romney as the party nominee," he observes, "showcasing that their power wasn't all that great — in part because they didn't have a unifying message nor a figure who could unite them."

Rozell says in their political heyday — in the 1980s and '90s — evangelicals had the Moral Majority and the Christian Coalition to mobilize them. They had Pat Robertson and James Dobson to inform and inspire them.

"But today, there really is no single leader or group of leaders who are directing the religious conservative movement," he says. "And so it seems to many to be splintered or directionless."

Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary says evangelicals now need to approach politics in a fundamentally different way. They need to bend a little on issues of lesser importance — for example, supporting candidates who have different ideas about the role of government — but who agree with them on marriage and life issues. And most important, Mohler says, evangelicals need to reach beyond their suburban walls.

"If we do not become the movement of younger Americans and Hispanic Americans and any number of other Americans, then we will just become a retirement community," he says. "And that cannot, that cannot, serve the cause of Christ."

And, as this election shows, minorities are the growth area of both politics and religion.

This Is What Equality Looks Like

The historic moment when supports of marriage equality in Maine learn that Question 1 will pass and equal marriage will become a reality in the state.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

While Venango County Remains Firmly In The Dark, History Is Made In Maine And Maryland

Victory: Voters Legalize Same-Sex Marriage In Maine And Maryland

by Lila Shapiro, Huffington Post:

For the first time in history, voters have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage on the ballot. Gay rights advocates are already celebrating this development as a critical victory and a turning point in the fight for marriage equality.

Since the late '90s, a total of 32 states have held votes on same-sex marriage, and each time, voters have opposed the measure. For opponents of same-sex marriage, this string of victories has been a crucial talking point. As Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, the nation's leading group opposing gay marriage, said in a press release this summer: "The American people know in their heart what marriage is, and they have expressed that in the form of over 70 million votes cast in 32 consecutive state elections to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman."

But on Tuesday night, voters in Maine and Maryland chose to legalize gay marriage, according to exit polls and early returns. In Minnesota and Washington, the results were not yet clear as of this writing.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that has long advocated for same-sex marriage, spent more than $5 million in support of gay marriage in these states.

“This is a landmark election for marriage equality and we will forever look back at this year as a critical turning point in the movement for full citizenship for LGBT people," he said in a press release Tuesday night. "Voters in Maine came to the common-sense conclusion that all people deserve the ability to make loving, lifelong commitments through marriage."

Marc Solomon, national campaign director for Freedom to Marry, another prominent advocacy organization, said in a press release: “Today, a majority in Maine voted in favor of loving and committed same-sex couples seeking the freedom to marry. Now the commitment gay and lesbian couples have made in life will be respected equally under the law, celebrated before their loved ones, and called what it is: marriage.”

For gay-rights advocates, the Maine vote is particularly heartening. Just three years ago, a popular vote overturned legislation that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

"Securing marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine is especially appreciated the second time around," R. Clark Cooper, head of the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest Republican group that supports same-sex marriage, told The Huffington Post in an email.

Although six states and Washington, D.C. legalized gay marriage before Tuesday night, they did so through the votes of state legislators or court decisions. The new victory undermines the conservative premise that those early wins were merely the result of liberal bias in state legislatures and the courts, and it reflects what recent polls have shown to be a shift in Americans' views on the issue.

“It’s hard to overstate the national significance of this vote,” Solomon said. “For years, our opponents have argued that we could not win a majority vote at the ballot. Today, Maine voters proved them wrong, standing up for the Golden Rule and for freedom for all Mainers.”

Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage could not immediately be reached for comment.

Monday, November 5, 2012

American Family Association of Pennsylvania Ignores Heterosexual Sex Crimes In Military

In efforts to oppose the repeal of the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, the Venango County-based Hate Group known as the American Family Association of Pennsylvania spent years promoting viciously harmful and deceitful propaganda about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  But this Hate Group never seems to be concerned about the true roots of sexual violence in the military, or society at-large, such as those described here.

Prosecutors Allege 5 Women In Army General's Sex Crimes

from the Associated Press:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. » U.S. Army prosecutors offered the first details of a rare criminal case against a general, alleging in a military hearing today he committed sex crimes against five women including four subordinates and a civilian.

A so-called Article 32 hearing on evidence in the case against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair began today at Fort Bragg, a sprawling post that is home to the 82nd Airborne Division. Officials said it was expected to last at least two days.

Sinclair faces possible courts martial on charges including forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, violating orders, engaging in inappropriate relationships, misusing a government travel charge card, and possessing pornography and alcohol while deployed. He served as deputy commander in charge of logistics and support for the division's troops in Afghanistan from July 2010 until he was sent home in May because of the allegations.

The Army had kept details secret until now in the rare criminal case against a high-ranking officer. That is different from other high-profile case where Army prosecutors were quick to release charging documents.

In March, the Army quickly released charge sheets laying out evidence against Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, the soldier accused of gunning down 17 Afghan civilians during a massacre in southern Afghanistan.

The first Article 32 hearing in Bale's case also began today across the country in Washington at Joint Base Lewis-McChord south of Seattle.

There have been only two other court-martial cases against Army generals in recent years.

Prosecutors in Sinclair's case alleged at today's hearing that the crimes happened between 2007 and 2012 in places including Iraq, Afghanistan and Germany, as well as Fort Bragg and Fort Hood in Texas.

In one case, prosecutors also said that Sinclair threatened one woman's career, as well as her life and the lives of her relatives, if she told anyone about his actions.

Sinclair's attorney asked for the charges to be thrown out, arguing that prosecutors had read confidential emails between the general and his defense. Defense attorney Lt. Col. Jackie Thompson said this violated his client's rights and asked that new prosecutors be brought in to try the case.

The hearing officer called a recess until early this afternoon to give a legal adviser time to review the documents.