Issue Brief: This Month in LGBTQ Justice

LGBT Flag

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.

India Supreme Court  Brings Back Colonial Anti-Sodomy Law
Four years after a ban on “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” was overturned by the Delhi High Court, the decision was reversed in India’s Supreme Court. The law in question is a relic of the British colonial penal code from 1860. The law’s odd ambiguity is explained by not wanting togive rise to public discussion on this revolting subject.” Although the re-criminalization of homosexual acts was backed by an uncharacteristically cooperative selection of Hindu, Islamic, and Christian groups, there was a substantial backlash when the ruling was delivered. There have been street protests across the country, a prominent social media campaign, and outspoken celebrities including the writer Vikram Seth.

Australian High Court Overturns Same-Sex Marriage
The Australian High Court has overturned the same-sex marriage legislation in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), ruling it inconsistent with federal law. The ACT law only went into effect five days before the ruling, leaving a five day window in which 27 same-sex couples married only for their marriages to be annulled. Although the ruling invalidates ACT’s strategy of creating a separate marriage status, rather than extending the federal definition of marriage, some see a silver lining in the ruling; the ruling forces the issue to be dealt with at a federal level, preventing an unreliable state-by-state expansion of marriage laws. Nevertheless, for the citizens of ACT, and especially those who had just gotten married, this ruling is disappointing and pushes back the issue of marriage equality in Australia.

North Dakota’s “Clarification” Could Lead to Possible Bigamy Issues
The refusal of some American states to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states has resulted in an odd twist, with North Dakota’s Attorney General ‘clarifying’ that individuals previously married to same-sex partners in other states could, without penalty, marry somebody of another sex in North Dakota. Regardless of whether anybody would do so, this brings up thorny legal issues. Because of the lack of federal bigamy laws, North Dakota’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage would lead to legal conundrums both in filing taxes and the legal consequences of re-entering states that do recognize same-sex marriages.

Marriage Equality Comes to New Mexico
On the 19th of December, New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize same-sex marriage. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the equal protection clause of the state’s constitution guaranteed the right to marriage to same-sex couples. They also rejected the premise that marriage should be limited to protect childrearing, stating “Procreation has never been a condition of marriage under New Mexico law.” New Mexico’s gender-neutral.

Marriage Equality Comes to Utah
Only a day after New Mexico’s court ruling, on December 20th a federal judge struck down Utah’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. This led to festive scenes at the Salt Lake City county clerk’s office, with the unexpected ruling taking many by surprise. Both trial judge Robert Shelby as well as the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Utah’s request to stay the decision, after the state Attorney General’s office apparently forgot to file the request until after hundreds of marriages had already taken place. The Supreme Court of the United States eventually granted the stay, but not until after an estimated 1,360 same-sex couples had already tied the knot. Utah Governor Gary Herbert send out a memo to all state agencies after SCOTUS granted the stay, announcing that while the 1,360 marriages are still legal marriages, the state will not recognize them or grant benefits to the couples until the state’s appeal of the decision to the 10th Circuit (and, presumably, the Supreme Court after that) is complete. The move to in essence invalidate the legally-performed weddings is taking a lot of heat, with arguments that the designation of legal marriages to second-class status only proves the point of why the ruling should stand. In addition, a state lawmaker is proposing a new constitutional amendment guaranteeing that both religions as well as religious people be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Calls Discrimination + Anti-Discrimination a “Healthy Balance”
In a television interview, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker opined that Wisconsin’s anti-discrimination law, alongside a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between “one man and one woman” constitute a “healthy balance.” A healthy balance, that is “between equality and state-sponsored discrimination.”

Colorado Air Force Academy Hires Ex-Gay Therapist
The US Air Force Academy in Colorado has hired Dr. Mike Rosebush to run the “character and leadership coaching program.” Rosebush is a former vice president of Focus on the Family, a previous director of a leading ex-gay consulting group, and was president of his own counselling service, “Coaching Confidant,” offering to ‘cure’ men of homosexuality. The tagline, “Advancing Christian Men Towards Real Life” demonstrates his views towards gay men. Though the Air Force maintains that Rosebush does not coach cadets directly, he has still designed their entire character and leadership program. This builds on a history of discrimination in the military, and one closeted gay Academy cadet’s statement that “Being LGBT here is like not being an “all in” Christian. You’re finished.”

Designated ‘Protest Zones’ for Sochi Olympics
Special protest zones will be created by the Russian government during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, “for people who want to demonstrate against something.” The same kind of protest zones were in place for the recent Olympics in Beijing and Vancouver, but not only are some predicting protest zones will be quite a distance from the sporting venues, but that the Chinese precedent showed these zones to be a “convenient means for China to identify and persecute dissidents,” and that protesters might be detained anyway, as was the case in China.

U.S. President Won’t Attend Sochi Olympics, Sends LGBTQ Athletes
The United States delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is going to include two gay athletes, former world champion tennis player Billie Jean King, and ice hockey star Caitlin Cahow. President Obama and all former-presidents will also not be in attendance, as they join a number of other world leaders including the French and German presidents not attending the games in protest of Russia’s anti-LGBTQ laws.

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill Passed by Parliament
“The Anti-Homosexuality  Bill” was passed by Uganda’s parliament on December 20th, four years after the bill was introduced by MP David Bahati. This version of the bill includes punishments up to lifetime imprisonment for consensual same-sex acts, criminalizes the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality, and imprisonment of up to five years for not informing authorities of “renting an apartment to an LGBT person.” As PRA has documented, US evangelicals, including Scott Lively, Lou Engle, and Rick Warren, have been instrumental in exporting anti-gay hate to Uganda. In order for the bill to become law, the president still needs to sign it. There is still the possibility that the President would delay the Bill, or suggestions of a lack of quorum hindering the bill, but it seems to have passed its highest hurdle towards being signed into law. PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos responded to the passage of the bill, saying “This human rights crisis was made here in the United States … we ask all Americans of conscience to demand accountability from those U.S. conservatives who planned and encouraged these human rights violations and now hide behind the African pastors and politicians who are their willing partners in persecuting people because of who they love.”

Croatia Votes to Define Marriage Between a Man and a Woman
With the lowest turnout in Croatian electoral history, a Croatian referendum to amend the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman succeeded, with 66% of the vote, bringing Croatia in line with many of its Eastern European Neighbors including Montenegro and Serbia. However, the Prime Minister stated that the vote was “sad and pointless,” also promising to promptly pass civil partnership laws giving “all couples, regardless of sex orientation, the same rights.”

Issue Brief: This Month in Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Racial and Immigrant Justice.

Not1More Protests Continue
#Not1More non-violent protests have been happening all around the country for the past year, pushing President Obama and Congress to end all deportation of undocumented workers and to eliminate holds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The latest protest happened in Philadelphia this week, as protesters surrounded an ICE building, blocking deportation vehicles from exiting the building.

Conservative Student Group Faces Backlash over “Catch an Illegal Immigrant” Game
The University of Texas at Austin’s chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) gained national headlines after announcing plans to host a “catch an illegal immigrant” event on campus. Scheduled to take place on November 20th, the goal of the event was to “spark a campus-wide discussion about the issue of illegal immigration, and how it affects our everyday lives,” by having students chase people on campus wearing  “Illegal Immigrant” pins for $25 dollar gift cards. The group was quickly denounced by both the student body and University officials, and the YCT was forced to cancel the event under increased pressure. The event was created by Lorenzo Garcia, chairman of the UT Austin chapter of the YCT and former paid employee for the Gubernatorial campaign of state Attorney General Greg Abbott. In an official response, Abbott denounced the event, but not before throwing in a few jabs at the left, arguing that “conservatives should not stoop to the level of liberals, and the “failed policies of the Obama administration are not a joking matter.” This was not the first time that first time that Garcia and the YCT have caused controversy. Earlier this semester, the group held an anti-affirmative action bake sale that had different prices set according to race and ethnicity.

New Student Group at Tufts Rallies in Support of Immigrant Justice
While the Young Conservatives of Texas grabbed national headlines, a newly formed student group at Tufts University rallied in support of Immigrant Justice. On November 20th, the proposed date of the “catch an illegal immigrant” game, United for Immigrant Justice (UIJ) held a rally at the University’s Mayer Campus Center near Boston. The group was founded last year by two students after attending a national conference organized by the Massachusetts Student Immigration Movement. One of the co-founders, sophomore Elizabeth Palma, traveled to  D.C from November 19th to the 21st with over 200 college activists across the country to rally for immigration reform, and increase pressure on the House of Representatives to pass a comprehensive reform bill. The group protested in front of the offices of numerous Conservative members of congress, and sang in front of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) office until his staff threatened to have them arrested for civil disobedience.

New Proposal Aims to Prevent Future Racial Profiling at Retail Outlets
On December 9th, a group of civil rights leaders and representatives from numerous high-end retail outlets formed a coalition to create a list of rules to prevent customers to being subject to “stop and frisk” laws at department stores in New York City. The coalition, which included Rev. Al Sharpton and executives from Barney’s, Macy’s, and other department stores, established a “customer bill of rights” for department stores after numerous cases over the past few months where Black shoppers were unfairly accused of theft and credit card fraud by undercover NYPD officers. In a statement following the announcement of the coalition’s proposal, Sharpton hailed what he called the “best practices” agreement as a step in the right direction, but noted that in order to have real progress, the coalition needs active participation from the NYPD.

The World Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela
On December 5th, the world lost one its most celebrated advocates of racial justice and human equality. Former South African President Nelson Mandela passed away at the age 95 after years of ill health. Mandela, the face of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, spent over 27 years in prison for his involvement in protesting against the oppressive regime. Mandela never let his incarceration deter him from being one of the most fierce and compassionate activists for equal rights, and even rejected three conditional offers to be released. Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, and four years later became the first democratically elected President of South Africa, as well as the first Black president. Mandela is considered by many to be one of the greatest champions of social justice and equality, and is an inspiration to many of us at PRA. In his article “Celebrating the Movement Mandela,” PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos noted how Mandela’s passing is an important moment for us to not only reflect on the impact of Mandela and the African freedom movement, but to reflect on “our own lives and social justice commitments.” He notes that while Mandela’s legacy is one of remarkable accomplishments, the dreams of equality remain unfulfilled. As the the world reflects on life and legacy Mandela left behind, we are reminded that the battles for equality are far from over. It is crucial that we learn from Mandela’s legacy as we continue to rally against the the continued assaults on racial justice in our own country.

Right Wing Responses to Mandela’s Passing Distort His Legacy
While political leaders, human rights activists, and advocates for equality across the world gave their final praises to Nelson Mandela, many on the Right responded with many hateful, distorted, and altogether inaccurate claims about Mandela and the movement to end Apartheid rule. Anti-choice activist Jill Stanek said that because of Mandela’s pro-choice views, she “cannot view Mandela as any other than a leader who engaged in mass genocide of his own innocent people.” American Family Radio Host Sandy Rios argued that Mandela deserved his 27 year jail sentence because he was a “criminal” and “criminals are placed in solitary confinement.” Others such as Rick Santorum attempted to the link the plight of Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement to domestic policy fights, with Santorum going as far as to equate apartheid with Obamacare. Tea Party Senators Ted Cruz (TX) and Mike Lee (UT) posted positive Mandela tributes on their Facebook pages, only to immediately be attacked by their Tea Party constituents for supporting a “known terrorist.” Lacking from the dialogue coming from the Right is any mention that many prominent American Conservatives lobbied against Mandela and the anti-Apartheid movement, including President Reagan, who had Mandela’s African National Congress organization added to the Terrorist Watch List. In defense of Reagan, Newt Gingrich claimed that he “was no friend of the Apartheid,” (despite voting against ending Apartheid) and Mandela’s death is “just another excuse for the left to smear Reagan.”

Speaker Boehner Continues to Balk On Immigration Reform
On November 13th, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he would not allow any House-approved immigration legislation to be blended with the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, stating “we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill,” and that there is not enough time left in 2013 to debate and pass immigration reform. In response, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that passing the Senate bill would be “easy,” noting that there are enough votes currently in place to pass the comprehensive immigration reform if Boehner would simply allow a vote on it. As more Americans begin to support immigration reforms, many moderate Republicans are worried of the political consequences if they are unable to pass a reform bill. Despite his vocal opposition for compromise, many prominent Democrats believe that Boehner will soon relent, including Vice President Joe Biden, who publicly called out the Speaker saying “It’s really pretty basic – pass the bill, John Boehner. Bring the bill up and let us pass it.”

Three San Jose Students Charged With Hate Crimes Against Black Suitemate
In mid-November, a student at San Jose State reported repeated instances of racial abuse by three of his eight campus suitemates. On November 22nd, the three students were suspended by the school after being charged with hate crimes and battery. If convicted, each student faces a maximum sentence of a year in prison. The Police investigation found that over the course of three months, the victim was continuously subjected to verbal and physical abuse, including being referred to as “three-fifths,” hanging a confederate flag near his door, and locking a “U” shaped bike lock on his neck and refusing to unlock it. In response to the charges, the Black Student Union at San Jose State held a campus rally demanding answers about the case, and calling for stiffer punishment against the accused perpetrators. As noted by Lecia Brooks at the Southern Poverty Law Center, the instance at San Jose State is only one of numerous recent cases of racist behavior on campus, including sorority girls dressing in “blackface” makeup, students dressing as Trayvon Martin for halloween, and a student at Towson University in Maryland that established a “White Student Union” on campus.

Report Shows Inequality in “Stand your ground” Laws When Affecting Black Males
While there are many examples of racial injustice in our criminal justice system, John Roman of the Urban Institute notes there is a striking gap disparity that has not been adequately researched until recently. In a November 27th report, Roman notes that the in the wake of the George Zimmerman trial, new studies have uncovered that African Americans are far less likely to be found justified in a gun-related homicide than white Americans. The report, which uses data from Supplemental Homicide Reports submitted to the FBI between 2005-2010, shows that when a perpetrator is black and the victim is white, there is a less than 1 percent chance of the case being ruled justified, while if the perpetrator is white and the victim is black, over nine percent are ruled justified. In states that have Stand Your Ground laws, justification for White on Black killings goes up to over 17 percent, though the rate for Black perpetrators stays the same.

Following Re-election, Chris Christie Reverses Stance on Immigration Reform
During his most recent campaign for reelection, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie claimed he would vote in favor of passing the Tuition Equality Act, New Jersey’s version of the Dream Act that recently passed through the State Senate. Under the new reforms, undocumented students that have attended a public high school for at least three years would qualify for in-state tuition rates at any New Jersey public college. Despite his earlier pledge of support, Christie announced on November 25th that while he is still in favor of extending in-state tuition rates for the children of immigrants, he would not sign the Senate’s version of the bill, claiming that the bill approved by the Senate was “overreaching” by asking for more funds than the federal version of the bill. In response to his announcement, New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney accused Christie of “once again turning his back on those who need us most… When he was running for governor he supported it, now that he is running for President he does not.” MSNBC columnist Steve Benen noted how Christie appears to be cross-pressured in trying to appeal to Latino and moderate voters within his state, while still keeping favor with the national Conservative base, which have become increasingly polarized on immigration issues.

Right Wing Fringe Groups Claim Illegal Immigration Will Cause Millions of “Anti-American Muslims” to Enter America
On November 11th, Right-Wing conspiracy theorist Gabor Zolna posted a video on YouTube claiming that Obama is using immigration reform to bring in 150 million Muslims to the U.S as part of a plot to impose Sharia law on Americans. Despite no evidence for his claim, the article was quickly picked up by other Right-Wing commentators. Brandon Walker of The Free Patriot claimed in a November 13th article that if the U.S passes an immigration reform bill, it will be “a back door calling for 150 million Muslims to be brought to the U.S. by 2018.” When Sandy Rios was asked what she thought of the claim, she said that it not only made sense, but questioned whether the entire immigration reform campaign is a just a “Muslim plot.” She then pointed to a Muslim organizer of DREAM Act activists as “proof,” saying “there’s no question that bad character Muslims, the Muslim Brotherhood and others, are going to use the whole amnesty problem that we have to bring in tons of illegal immigrant Muslims who don’t wish us any kind of good.”

Issue Brief: This Month in Reproductive Justice

Credit: Charlotte Cooper/ctrouper on Flickr

Credit: Charlotte Cooper/ctrouper on Flickr

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Reproductive Justice.

Cities in Maine and Pennsylvania Enact Buffer Zones around Abortion Clinics
In two unanimous rulings, both the cities of Portland , Maine and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania voted to create buffer zones around abortion clinics in an attempt to ensure that patients seeking healthcare would not be deterred by anti-choice protesters. In Portland the 39-foot buffer zone was voted into effect immediately. Zones of this nature, like the Massachusetts zone law, are up for review by the U.S. Supreme Court. While arguably justified based on the history of violence against clinics and harassment of clinic patients, the laws still raise questions about First Amendment rights. Thus far, the courts have ruled in favor of buffer zones protecting patient access to medical services since they do not keep the voices of protesters from being heard nor their signs seen.

Michigan Ballot Initiative Would Require Women to Purchase Separate Insurance for Abortion, Regardless of Circumstances Like Rape
An anti-choice group called Right to Life of Michigan has submitted 315,000 signatures to put a ballot initiative up for review by the Michigan Legislature. The initiative would require women to buy an additional rider on their health insurance, in advance of becoming pregnant, in order to receive coverage in the event of their needing an abortion. Reportedly, the majority of members in the House and Senate put their names to the petition, making it a strong possibility that the measure will pass into law if it comes before the Legislature. Of the four prior legislative ballot initiatives in the state of Michigan, three of them were aimed at restricting access to abortion in open attempts to erode the rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Critics have pointed out that the initiative makes no exceptions for women who become pregnant as a result of rape, so women would have to pay for the additional insurance rider “just in case” they are raped.

Three Women Denied Abortions in Ireland Take Their Cases to the UN
Siobhain Murphy, Ruth Bowie and Amanda Mellet, three Irish women denied abortions in their home country and forced to go abroad to England to have the procedure, have brought their case to the UN. They allege Ireland’s Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act, which makes all abortion illegal except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, constitutes “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.” In all three cases the women had been told that the fetuses would not survive past birth and made the decision not to carry the pregnancies to term, at which point they were denied the service under Irish law. It is their intention that fetal impairment be added to the list of circumstances under which an abortion is permitted in Ireland and are working with the Center for Reproductive Rights toward this goal. There is some precedent for the situation in the UN’s KL v. Peru case, where the verdict established that “withholding abortion services in cases of fatal fetal impairments, regardless of legality, constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

Iowa Judge Grants Temporary Stay in Telemedicine Abortion Restrictions
Iowa Judge Karen Romano ruled in favor of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland’s request to stay a ruling by the Iowa Board of Medicine. The ruling makes it illegal for doctors to prescribe Mifepristone pills to women after video exams—known as “telemedicine”—without establishing an in-person relationship with patients first. Telemedicine is both popular and important in the delivery of healthcare services to rural women who do not have the ability to travel to a clinic which in many cases is hundreds of miles away. Romano did not find the Board’s reason for tighter restriction of the delivery of the abortion pill by this method compelling, noting that it was “peculiar… that the board would mandate this for abortion services and not any other telemedicine practices in Iowa” The judge also pointed out that in the five years the practice has been in effect, there have been zero issues reported.

Senate GOP Introduces Measure to Criminalize Abortions After 20 Weeks
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill that would make abortion procedures illegal after a period of 20 weeks, the point at which anti-choice activists have claimed that a fetus feels pain. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) are co-sponsoring the symbolic bill, which has virtually no chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate but represents the Right-Wing dedication to attacking reproductive autonomy by whichever angle they can work. The theory that a fetus feels pain at 20 weeks has been widely circulated and used as justification for multiple state-level bans already, even though it has been discredited .

Albuquerque Voters Come Out Against 20-week Abortion Ban
With record voter turnout, residents of Albuquerque, New Mexico voted 55 percent to 45 percent against a proposal that would have restricted abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The ballot measure was the first of its kind, being a municipal vote instead of a state-wide or legislative vote, and victory for pro-choice activists against out-of-state anti-choice organizers is heartening. The measure would have been particularly harsh, not even providing exemptions for instances of rape, incest, and fetal anomalies. Albuquerque is one of the last places in the country with clinics providing third-trimester abortions, making it a hot target for anti-choice campaigns. In spite of those increased efforts however, the day went to reproductive freedom.

Senate Democrats Draft Pro-Choice Bill to Halt Nation-Wide Attacks on Abortion Access
In light of the continued state-level legislation making it more financially, physically and emotionally difficult for women to obtain abortions, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) is taking the lead on the creation of a bill called the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2013. The legislation would require states to prove that any restrictions on women’s reproductive autonomy they enact are medically necessary. While the bill would not deactivate existing state laws, it would provide a framework to challenge state law in federal courts. The bill has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled House, but it marks the first time in a decade that a piece of national legislation has been introduced with the purpose of protecting abortion access.

Supreme Court to hear Hobby Lobby Abortion Coverage Case
The U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case of Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores that has been refusing to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requisite that employer-provided insurance include coverage of some contraceptives. The lawsuit was filed last September. The fight iss over emergency contraception, which the Evangelical proprietors of Hobby Lobby, the Green family, consider to be “an abortion-causing drug” even though this is not the function of EC. Rather than comply, the company has been facing the threat of fines amounting to $1.3 million a day for every day of non-compliance. The issue up for review, as summarized by the Supreme Court, is whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) which states that the government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” extends to for-profit companies denying benefits “to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.” Can a company “exercise” religion and therefore be entitled to protection? The question is reminiscent of Citizens United case which ruled that corporations also enjoyed free speech protection. The United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit had ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby by that same logic. The ruling could have broad impact outside of even reproductive justice, and could also effect LGBT non-discrimination laws, where some companies argue that their ability to fire a person for being LGBT is protected by their right to exercise their religious beliefs.

New York Magazine Features First Person Abortion Stories
This past month, New York Magazine featured the personal stories of 26 women who had decided to end their pregnancies, framing the story with statistics from the past half-century of the societal split on the issue of abortion. In the spirit of the 1 in 3 campaign, the magazine features a range of women across different states, generations, socio-economic and racial backgrounds. The results of bringing these stories to the public sphere is tangible, with Planned Parenthood reporting that in the results of a survey they commissioned, when people were asked about specific circumstances that a woman could be facing surrounding her decision, they were more likely to oppose a 20-week limit on abortion coverage. The majority of those surveyed responded favorably to allowing women to obtain a legal abortion after 20 weeks.

RH Reality Check Publishes Infographic on the Sources of Anti-Choice Funding
Our friends over at RH Reality Check have published a new article deep-diving into how the Koch Brothers are funding anti-choice activists and legislators. It’s a great read, and includes the following infographic:

(Click the image to visit RH Reality Check)

(Click the image to visit RH Reality Check)

 

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month In LGBTQ Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Justice.

Ecuador’s “Gay Addiction” Clinics Continue Torturous Practices
On November 7th, the Union and Hope Clinic in Pisuli, Ecuador was raided by police. The clinic is one of many in Ecuador that deals with “gay addiction,” and uses rape and torture as clinical tools to “cure” people of homosexuality. Seven people were arrested after the police found patients in “inhumane conditions.” The seventeen people rescued from the clinic adds to the approximately 500 people who have been freed from such clinics this past year. Carina Vance Mafla, Ecuador’s openly lesbian health minister, has vowed to work with LGBTQ organizations to shut down these clinics. The Health Ministry has already ordered the closure of 30 clinics, although many have already re-opened under different names. An article published recently in the Sunday Times focuses on the practice of kidnapping people, with parental consent, to be sent to these clinics to be “cured” of homosexuality.

Suggestive Pants Amount to Homophobic Act In Lithuania
A recent survey shows that Lithuanians have become less tolerant of homosexuals, and more tolerant of their homophobic neighbors in Russia. Recently, Petras Grazulis, a member of the Law and Order Party in Lithuania who is known for his anti-gay views, personally delivered a pair of pants with a zipper on the rear to the Lithuania Gay League (LGL). LGL members had been taking part in a European Union conference on hate crimes in Vilnius, and it appears that Grazulis’s actions were in response to this. Back in May 2012, Gazulis crashed an LGBTQ rights event and declared that all gays should leave the country, asking, “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or pedophiles?” Grazulis’s actions can be seen as part of a greater trend towards homophobia and transphobia in Lithuanian politics. In December the Lithuanina parliament is slated to consider five separate anti-gay and anti-trans bills, including a ban on gender reassignment and a legislation legalizing hate crimes against LGBTQ people.

ENDA Loses Momentum in the U.S. House

John Boehner currently sees “no need or no basis” for ENDA.

While the Senate passed the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) on November 7, progress on the legislation has hit a wall in the House.   LGBTQ rights advocates have been pushing for an executive order to prohibit federal contractors from engaging in anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The White House has been withholding with the order, citing the need for Congress to act. While an executive order would not be be as comprehensive as ENDA, it would protect as many as 16 million workers while the legislation stalls in the House. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he sees “no need or basis” for ENDA, and is refusing to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote. In response to Boehner’s dismissal of ENDA’s necessity, LGBTQ advocates cite the plurality of states in the U.S. where there is no law in place prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Currently, 22 states have statutes that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation-based employment discrimination. Eighteen states have gender identity and anti-discrimination laws in place. A recent study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that there are relatively few discrimination complaints in states with such laws.

Fenway Institute to Host Webinar on Transgender Health
The National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute will host a webinar entitled “Transgender Medical Care: Advanced Case Discussion” on December 10 from 3-4 pm EST. Their website was launched in 2012 as part of LGBT Awareness Month, and provides educational programs, resources, and consultation to health care organizations with the goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for LGBT people. All webinars are available on-demand.

NOM’s 990 Reveals They Finished 2012 $2.7M In the Red
A recently released 990 tax form reveals the the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) finished 2012 $2.7 million in the red (although Maggie Gallagher is still somehow pulling $160K from them). Some people have seen the 990 as an indicator that NOM can no longer profit from their anti-LGBT agenda. NOM and the Far Right may be losing the battle to define marriage in this country, but there are other wells for them to draw from in the LGBT community, and NOM seems to be aware of this. The Supreme Court struck down a key section of DOMA and invalidated California’s Prop 8, but NOM has recently joined the fight against a bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown that allows students to define their gender for themselves, choose which restroom they want to use, and decide whether they wish to play on male- or female-gendered sports teams. NOM may have had a rough year in 2012, but if the fight for transgender rights turns out to be NOM’s newest cash cow, 2014 could see their anti-LGBT agenda become lucrative again.

World Congress of Families Hosts Discussion on Family Policy Abroad
The anti-gay World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted a discussion in Washington, D.C. on “What America Should Learn” from family policy abroad. The meeting was originally intended to be held in a Senate meeting room, but Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) withdrew his sponsorship after an outcry from LGBT activists. House Speaker John Boehner then provided the group with a meeting space. During the discussion, the WCF touched on the subject of encouraging the growth of grassroots conservative movements in France, Spain, and Nigeria. Much of the discussion, however, centered on how the U.S. media has “distorted” the Russian anti-propaganda law. “They are trying to build a pro-family movement in Russia, and we’re working with them,” said Allen Carlson, founder and international secretary of WCF. The World Family of Congress is an organization that has become infamous for both exporting conservative ideologies from the U.S. as well as brining conservative ideals and strategies back into the country. The group will be holding their 2014 summit in Moscow.

Scott Lively Has A “Theory” About the Anti-Gay Violence In Russia
While on “Mission America”, Linda Harvey’s radio show, Scott Lively espoused his theory on the true nature of the anti-gay violence in Russia. Lively is claiming that the widely seen (thanks to YouTube) violence against LGBT people in Russia is actually to “gay-on-gay crime”. Lively alleged, “The guys that are beating up gays in Russia—and it’s not any more prevalent than it ever has been really and it isn’t all that prevalent at all—but the ones that are doing it are butch homosexuals who are beating up effeminate homosexuals.” Lively, known for his work exporting homophobia to Uganda, has recently turned his attention to Russia (perhaps because he is on trial for crimes against humanity in Uganda). In October, he participated in a planning meeting for WCF’s 2014 conference in Moscow.

Harry Reid Says Mormon Views On LGBT Rights “Evolving”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that members of his faith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), are evolving their views on LGBT rights, citing recent support of church members for ENDA.  While it may be true that members of the church are evolving their views, recent news of the Church itself, the body that governs LDS members, shows little sign of change. The Church has continually told its members that it is their duty to oppose gay marriage, saying that “unlike other organizations that can change their policies and even their doctrines, our policies are determined by the truths God has declared told to be unchangeable.” One of the Church’s highest leaders, Russell M. Nelson, recently said, “Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fullness of life on Earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood or misconstrued.” While it is encouraging that members of the church may be changing their views on LGBT rights, the Church itself, which yields a great deal of financial and ideological influence in U.S. government, continues to oppose marriage equality. In Hawaii, before marriage equality was passed earlier this month, the Mormon Church lobbied extensively against the law.

Being Gay Now Grounds For Asylum in European Union
The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, ruled this month that being gay is now grounds for asylum. LGBT people fearing imprisonment in their home countries will now have grounds for seeking asylum in any of the 28 EU member states. The case in question centered on three gay men from Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Senegal who had unsuccessfully fought to be given refugee status in the Netherlands. The Dutch Council of State asked whether homosexuals could be considered a “particular social group”, since under international law a particular social group with a well-founded fear of persecution can claim refugee status if the persecution amounts to a severe violation of human rights. The Court ruled existence of laws imprisoning gay people “may constitute an act of persecution”, although the mere existence of a ban on homosexuality is not grounds in itself for seeking an asylum request.

This Past Month Has Been Big For Marriage Equality

http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/

In slightly less than a month, three states have passed marriage equality. On October 21, LGBT New Jerseyans began to marry at midnight. Just hours later, Gov. Chris Christie announced his plans to drop his appeal of the law. On November 13, in Hawaii, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a marriage equality law after a Special Session during which legislators discussed why marriage equality matters to same-sex couples and their families. LGBT people in Hawaii will begin to marry on December 2. Finally, on November 20, in Illinois, Gov. Pat McQuin signed the freedom to marry law after it was approved earlier this year by the State House and Senate. LGBT couples will begin marrying there in June, 2014. As of right now, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marriage equality, with over 38% of the U.S. population living in these states. It also seems possible that the high court in New Mexico may rule in favor of marriage equality by the end of the year, although some state Republicans are already creating a plan to strike back by pursuing a statewide constitutional referendum to ban the unions.

Issue Brief: This Month in Economic Justice

Economic Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Economic Justice.

White House Backs Proposal to Increase the Minimum Wage
During his State of the Union address in February, President Obama called for an increase of the national minimum wage to 9 dollars per hour. On November 7th, the White House confirmed rumors that it would support an even higher minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced in March by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), would be the first minimum wage increase since former President George W. Bush set the wage floor at $7.25 per hour in 2009. Over 30 million Americans stand to receive a wage increase if the bill is passed. The current minimum wage pays only $15,000 per year, well under the poverty line for a family of three. But the proposed raise would boost the annual wage to over $21,000, bringing millions of families to just over the poverty line. The proposed legislation also ties  the minimum wage to inflation.

Amnesty  Report Exposes Attempt by Shell Gasoline to Cover up Oil Spills in Nigeria
The human rights advocacy group Amnesty International published a report on November 7th that uncovered repeated attempts by the Shell corporation to manipulate and mislead oil spill investigations in Nigeria. The report highlights “specific cases in which Shell has wrongly reported the cause of oil spills, the volume of oil spilled, or the extent and adequacy of clean up measures.” Since Shell controls its own investigations, it has been able to create its own findings without fear of repercussion. While the company has told customers, investors, and the media the spills were a result of theft and sabotage, the findings in the report do not support their claims. The misleading findings have resulted in Nigerians “receiving little or no compensation” for the damage caused by the oil spills.

Los Angeles Police Arrest 54 Protesters Outside Walmart
On the night of November 6th, over 500 activists gathered in front of a Walmart in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles. Upon arriving at the scene, the LAPD declared the protest to be an unlawful assembly, and arrested 54 protesters for failure to disperse. The protest was organized by OUR Walmart, an employee-based group that calls for fair wages, health benefits, and the right to unionize. According to the 2010 census, Walmart employs 1 percent of the entire American workforce, but as the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy notes, their employees make 20 percent less than the average retail employer. Walmart has recently resorted to hiring temporary workers and cutting employee hours down to avoid providing employee health benefits, which “has led to the company placing dead last among department and discount stores in the most recent  American Customer Satisfaction Index.”

NBA Coach Speaks Out on Behalf of Veterans
When asked by a reporter to comment on Veteran’s day, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made headline news by claiming veterans “don’t really get honored the way they should be.” He noted that while the holiday is a joyous occasion, our country is failing to adequately provide our veterans with proper assistance. In particular, he spoke out against the recent cuts to food stamp benefits by asking “how many vets might have to do without food stamps because of what’s going on with the government right now? That program is huge to a lot of these families.” The most recent cuts to SNAP benefits went into effect on November 1st, which the Pentagon estimates will impact over 5000 veterans. With the pending house bill to cut an additional $40 billion from the program, families of veterans, in particular older veterans, might see their assistance cut even deeper. Popovich, a veteran of the Air-Force, is one of the most successful basketball coaches of all time, having won four NBA titles since 1998.

Sequester Cuts Already Hurting Essential Government Programs
On November 12th, NDD United released a 136-page report showing how the sequester cuts have already affected thousands of government programs. The cuts, which went into effect on March 1st, sliced “$80 billion from defense and non-defense programs this year, creating a drag on an economy still struggling to recover from the Great Recession.”  Government programs across the country have already felt the impact, such as Head Start, Reading Corps, job training for the unemployed, and meal programs for senior citizens. The impact is even being felt overseas, as “571,344 fewer malnourished children in developing countries received ‘nutritional interventions’ to prevent permanent damage caused by starvation” in 2013 alone. The report was released the day before congress begins preliminary talks begins over the 2014 budget. Lawmakers will decide if they wish to go ahead with an additional $110 billion in sequester cuts, set to begin in January.

Koch Brothers-Funded Group Throws Anti-Obamacare Tailgate Party
This past Saturday, the anti-Obamacare group Generation Opportunity threw a party at a Virginia Tech/University of Miami football game in Florida. As noted by communications director David Pasch, the group hired a DJ, brought pizza and booze, and students over 21 were able to drink. Along with all the fun, the group also “educated students about their healthcare options outside the expensive and creepy Obamacare exchanges”, which included a man dressed in a creepy Uncle Sam costume. The group, funded by the Conservative billionaires David Koch and Charles Koch, will be touring 20 more campuses this year in a “$750,000 effort to convince college students that they’re better off being uninsured than getting health coverage through Obamacare.” This is not the first time the Koch brothers have funded networks of “non-profits groups” to influence public opinion. A recent report by RH Reality Check highlights how Koch-funded organizations helped fuel the current debate over abortion in states across the country.

17 Million Americans Qualify for Tax Break Under Obamacare
While the media has been in frenzy over the technical problems facing the Obamacare website, reports are showing the Affordable Care Act is already impacting Americans across the country. According to a November 5th report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 17 million Americans “will qualify for tax credits aimed to reduce the cost of health insurance under Obamacare.“ The credits are aimed at Americans who either cannot afford health insurance, or buy insurance on their own because they do not receive coverage from their employers. Most likely to receive the cuts are the younger, working class, and the value of the subsidies will vary between states. Despite estimates that over 30 million Americans could benefit from this exchange, the Congressional Budget Office expects only “7 million people will use the exchanges to obtain private health insurance for 2014.”

New York City Elects Bill de Blasio as Mayor, a Victory for Economic Justice
The City of New York elected Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio to replace outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg on November 5th. de Blasio ran his campaign on the platform of income inequality, speaking out against the “1 percent first” policies that thrived under Bloomberg’s tenure. Referring to it as the “tale of two cities”, he continually noted that nearly half of all New Yorkers, and 6 out of 10 people of color, were “were either poor or near poverty.” During his tenure as Mayor, Bloomberg actively recruited billionaires and large businesses to move into the city, arguing that while government services were important, the private sector needed to succeed to achieve economic success. As a result, New York has become the most billionaire-populated city in the world, while one out of six residents are currently unemployed. The high costs of living in New York has also led to increased homeless rates, with “one out of three of the city’s 50,000 homeless hold(ing) down at least one job, with some working two.”

Congress Votes to Cut Food Stamps, While Billionaires Receive Taxpayer-Funded Subsidies
According to a November 7th report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), at least 50 billionaires and farm business received over $11 million in farm subsidies between 1995 to 2012. The report was released in light of the proposed congressional farm bill, which will provide further farm subsidies while cutting over $40 billion from nutritional supplemental programs such as food stamps. Many of the Billionaires appeared on the 2013 Forbes 400 List, including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Charles Schwab, and Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy. Billionaires are not the only ones benefiting from farm subsidies. As the Huffington Post reported in June, “fifteen members of Congress received $237,921 in federal farm subsidy payments last year.” Two recipients of the subsidies, Reps. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) have become vocal supporters of cutting SNAP benefit, cited the bible to argue that “while Christians have a responsibility to feed the poor, the federal government does not.”

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month in Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Racial and Immigrant Justice.

Senator Ted Cruz Says “Stand Your Ground” Laws Protect Black Americans
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R), during a Senate hearing on “stand your ground” laws, announced that these laws actually “protect” Black Americans rather than harming them. The hearing came about as a result of the 2012 shooting of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Cruz stated that because many Black Americans tend to be victims of violent crimes, they would benefit from using “stand your ground” laws as a defense. He then addressed Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, and suggested that her family was “simply mourning the loss of [their son],” while others were trying to turn this tragic event into something more than it was. Studies have found that the considered “justified” killing of Black Americans is 22 percent higher than White Americans. 

Conservative Lawmaker Says He’d Support Slavery if Constituents Want It
Nevada lawmaker Jim Wheeler’s comment regarding slavery, and whether or not he would vote in favor of it depending on what his constituents wanted, has been criticized for its lack of immediate condemnation. A YouTube video of a Republican gathering in August of this year shows Wheeler at a Storey County Republican Party event saying, “If [slavery’s] what [the citizens] wanted, I’d have to hold my nose…they’d probably have to hold a gun to my head, but yeah.” Wheeler claimed the quote was taken out of context and that his point was not that he’d actually vote for the reinstitution of slavery, but that he’d represent his constituents no matter what they demanded. 

Push Continues to Get “Redskins” Name Dropped
Activists and legislators have been protesting the Washington NFL football team’s name and mascot, the Redskins, in hopes that the racist epithet of Native Americans can be eliminated from Washington’s club. The team’s owner, Dan Synder, has responded to the push by asserting the team has created 81 years of memories, which they honor and pride. Many politicians, from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to Rep. John Lewis, along with American Indian civil rights leaders, continue to push for Washington to finally replace it’s racist team name and mascot with something that doesn’t harm a whole racial group of people. 

Tucson School District Un-Bans Latino Books
In 2010, the Arizona legislature passed a law essentially banning Latino books from Tucson schools, as well as the rest of Arizona. The law also suspended Tucson’s Mexican American Studies program, which Attorney General Tom Horned said would “politicize students” or “demonize White people.” Now, the Tucson Unified School District voted 3 to 2 to un-ban seven books—six of which are written by Latino authors. While teachers are not expected to utilize the books in their classrooms, they now, at least, have the option to offer them to their students. 

32 States Failing to Follow Law Keeping Native American Families Together
Back in 1978, after learning about the substantial number of American Indian children who were removed from their homes by public and private agencies, Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act in order to keep Native American families together. Today, however, 32 states are not meeting this act’s requirement, with South Dakota being perhaps the most grim example. The state claims that the current removal of Native American children from their families is due to neglect—although many representatives, such as Bob Walters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, contend that “neglect is subjective” and the real issue blighting them is poverty. Financial incentives for White families to adopt American Indian child exacerbates the problem, as, a decade back, South Dakota designated all Native children as “special needs,” which offers adoptive parents a bonus of up to $12,000. Despite comprising 15 percent of the child population in South Dakota, Native American children make up more than fifty percent of the ones housed in foster care. 

DOJ Cracks Down on Racist Rental Practices in Pittsburgh
Last month, the U.S. Justice Department sued S-2 Properties, owner of Baldwin Commons Apartments, for racial discrimination in their renting process. Located in Pittsburgh, where White residents make up more than 65 percent of the population, this issue was brought to federal court after the Justice Department organized a sting with agents posing as renters to check for discriminatory bias. They discovered that when their White testers inquired about space for rent, S-2 Properties staff members overwhelmingly favored them to move into the 100-apartment complex in Baldwin Borough, while their Black testers were placed on a waiting list. The same result occurred even after one of their Black testers spoke with S-2 Properties a mere few hours before a White tester. 

New Study Says Racists More Likely to be Gun Owners
A study conducted by Australian and British researchers suggests that White Americans who exhibited “symbolic racism” were more likely to be gun owners. Individuals were asked multiple questions to test their racial prejudices, one of which was, “How well does the word ‘violent’ describe most blacks?” with five options ranging from “extremely well” to “not at all well” given. The “extremely well” answer was an indication that the person accepted racist stereotypes. The study found that the higher the score, the better the chance the respondent owned a gun. Researcher Kerry O’Brien offered that the discussion over this finding might be “tricky” if White Americans remain opposed to gun reforms more so than any other racial demographic. 

SCOTUS Weighs University Affirmative Action Case
U.S. Supreme Court Justices are divided over an affirmative action case in Michigan state schools. In 2006, a measure known as Proposal 2 amended the SCOTUS decision in 2003 to uphold race as a factor for law school admissions “to ensure educational diversity.” Affirmative Action advocates have sued to block part of Proposal 2. Some justices, such as Antonin Scalia, did not find just cause for repealing the amendment, proclaiming, “It’s not a racial classification. It’s the prohibition of racial classifications,” while others favored striking down the measure stating. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “We can’t put hurdles in the way of a disadvantaged minority.” If Proposal 2 in Michigan is overturned, the ruling could affect affirmative actions bans in other states, such as California, Arizona, and Florida. 

NYC’s “Stop and Frisk” Policy Not Gone Yet
Despite the push to do away with the stop-and frisk policy in New York City that overwhelmingly targets Black and Latino people, and despite a federal judge’s ruling that said the NYPD violated the civil rights of these people of color, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is halting efforts to reform the policy. The previous ruling is currently on hold after the judge in charge on the case was removed for “[running afoul] of judicial conduct. The Court of Appeals claimed she had failed to appear impartial. This will push back the ruling until next year, when a new judge is appointed to overlook the policy. The future of the policy could also hinge on the decisions made by newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio.

California GOP Focuses Attention on Winning Over Asian Americans
The GOP, in order to diversify and expand its fairly White party, is focusing its attention on the Asian American community. At the California Republican Party Convention last month, Republican leaders spoke out at the Asian Pacific American Roundtable about their need to communicate better with Asian Americans. While the GOP struggle to win over Black and Latino voters, Nimfa Gamez, vice chair of the Filipino American Republican Party of Northern California, suggested they will have better success with Asian voters because they share “many of the party’s core values of family, education and religion.” Republicans in California plan to hire 15 Asian workers overall by the end of this year to reach out to the Asian American community. 

Issue Brief: This Month in Reproductive Justice

reproductive health SLIDE

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Reproductive Justice.

One Court Strikes Down Texas Anti-Abortion Restrictions, Another Reinstates
On Monday, a federal district court struck down a provision of the recent restrictions on Abortion rights Texas had set to go into effect on October 29th. The restrictions, signed into law on July 18th by Governor Rick Perry, required physicians that provide abortions to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The proposed restrictions caused an instant political and media backlash, most notably when State Senator Wendy Davis held an 11-hour filibuster to block the vote on the measures. Although state legislators claimed the provisions were meant to protect the health of women, they were widely condemned as an attempt to deny abortion coverage to over a third of all women in Texas. Over 80 percent of the Texas population opposed the restrictions, and medical experts across the country claimed it would provide no medical benefits, and would in fact “jeopardize women’s health and safety.” In the ruling, the judge noted that the law had “no rational relationship to improved patient care.” While the ruling was a victory for reproductive rights, the ACLU reported that ‘less than an hour after the decision, the state of Texas had already filed its appeal” against the federal ruling. On Wednesday, a panel of three judges (all George W. Bush appointees) granted Texas’ request for a stay on the lower courts ruling, effectively placing the restrictions back into place for now.

Outrage Erupts in England Over Gender-Based Abortions
Christian groups across England are planning lawsuits against two doctors who arranged for the abortion of female fetuses for parents who had wanted boys. Over the past year, the Daily Telegraph began an undercover investigation of abortion clinics, secretly filming doctors that “agreed to terminate fetuses for sex selection purposes.” The investigation caused a media uproar across the country and a subsequent investigation by the British Government. On October 7th, the Government announced it would not charge the doctors, claiming the Abortion Act of 1967 “does not expressly prohibit gender specific abortions.”, and held a debate in parliament over the issue two days later. Numerous anti-choice groups have begun preparing lawsuits against the doctor

In El Salvador, A Miscarriage Can Lead to Jail Time
El Salvador is currently one of five countries to have a total ban on abortion, and outlaws abortions even in cases of rape or when a mother’s health is at risk. The controversial ban sparked worldwide attention this summer when government officials refused to let a dying woman have an abortion, even after it was determined that the baby had no chance of survival. A report by BBC News this past Thursday found from 2000 to 2011, over 200 women have been accused of using a miscarriage as cover up for a suspected abortion. 49 of these women were convicted of murder, with prison sentences ranging from 12 to 35 years. The report also underlines that all the accused women came from the public health sector, and were “overwhelmingly poor, unmarried and poorly educated.” Not a single case started from the private health sector, where it is estimated that thousands of abortion procedures take place annually. Defense Attorney Dennis Munoz Estanle, who represented 29 of the convicted women in court, says these women were used by a criminal justice system “that needs women to make examples of.”

New Abortion Restrictions in Ohio Push Legal Boundaries, Closes Clinics
Since the appointing of Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis to the state medical board in 2011, Ohio has passed extensive restrictions on abortion clinic procedures.  Under one of the new restrictions, public hospitals are barred from making transfer agreements with clinics, resulting in clinics across the state being unable to find a willing private hospital to sned patients to in the case of an emergency. In the past month, two more clinics have closed while another clinic appeals a state order to close, bringing the overall total to five clinics closed in 2013, leaving only nine remaining in Ohio. Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a challenge to these new restrictions in state court, arguing that they violated the “single subject” rule in the Ohio Constitution since the restrictions were passed through an unrelated budget bill. Pro-Choice advocates say these restrictions as tip-toeing federal law by both limiting access to abortions, and shaming the women who enter clinics through questionable methods. Starting this month, abortion clinics in Ohio are required to ask all patients if they would like to see an ultrasound of the fetus and feel its heartbeats.

Documentary Highlights Risks For Physicians Who Perform Late-Term Abortions
Earlier this month, the documentary After Tiller was released, which profiles the four doctors remaining in the U.S who “still openly offer the controversial third-trimester procedures,” following the murder of Dr. GeorgeTiller in 2009. Third-trimester abortions are a highly controversial procedure, opposed by many on both sides of the abortion debate, who view them as being too close to childbirth. Tiller, who performed third-trimester abortions through his clinic in Kansas, was shot to death during a service at his local church by an anti-choice radical. Instead of focusing on the political debate surrounding abortion, the documentary highlights the every day risks these doctors face and the emotional toll inflicted on both them and their patients. To little surprise, the ProLife Action Leaguestill found a way to be offended by the politically neutral film, claiming it was filled with “contradictions and moral blindness.”

Annual “1 in 3” Aims to Directly Confront the Stigma of Abortion
October 22nd marked the beginning of the 1 in 3 Campaign Week of Action, a grassroots campaign put together by the Advocates for Youth organization. The campaign aims to show the American public that abortion is more mainstream than people realize, while confronting the negative stigma associated with abortion that “continues to impact women’s experiences with their reproductive health.”The campaign takes its name from recent studies that show about 1 out of 3 mothers will have an abortion at some point in their lives. Despite being a common health care procedure, many of these women are fearful to openly talk about their experience. The organization believes the fear to speak out is directly associated with the increased attacks on women’s reproductive rights. The campaign centers around the stories of many women who have bravely shared their testimonies in a new book published by the organization to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade, which made the right to have an abortion legal across the country.

House Republicans Attempt to add “Conscience Clause” to Obamacare
In a last second move, the GOP-controlled congress attempted to add a provision to the Affordable Care Act during their most recent attempt to defund the law. Under the new ACA guidelines, companies with over 50 workers are required to provide insurance plans which cover contraception coverage. Though religious organizations are exempt from this requirement, it was not enough to satisfy House Republicans. Just days before the federal government shut down, conservatives added a “conscience clause” to their funding bill. The move was seen by many as as a symbolic attempt to add their social views into the battle over Obamacare, despite having little relevance to the overall debate and no chance of being passed.

Nebraska Court Rules Teenage Girl “Too Immature” to Have An Abortion
On October 4th, the Nebraska Supreme Court denied a 16-year-old girl’s request for an abortion, claiming she lacked the maturity to make the decision by herself. State law requires pregnant women under 18 to obtain written consent from a parent or guardian before they can have an abortion. The young woman in this case, who became pregnant in May, was placed in foster care months earlier after the parental rights of her biological parents were terminated on the grounds of abuse. Upon becoming pregnant, the woman requested a consent waiver from the state, fearing her foster parents would refuse due to their religious beliefs. The court ruled she was not mature enough to make the decision on her own since she was dependent on foster parents, despite not being her legal guardians. Attorney Catherine Mahern, who represented the young girl, noted this story is only one example in an alarming trend. “The real story here is how many girls in foster care are getting pregnant,” she said. “It’s shameful.” According to a report by the Guttmacher Institute in 2011, 33 percent of women in foster care become pregnant before the age of 18, over double the national average at 14 percent.

Lawsuit Challenges Fetal Protection Laws In Wisconsin
This past July, a pregnant woman was arrested in Wisconsin after informing her doctor of a previous drug addiction, on the grounds of “endangerment to her unborn child.” Under a 1998 state law known as the “cocaine mom” act, welfare authorities can confine a pregnant woman who uses drugs and alcohol to “a severe degree and refuses treatment.” Despite years of sobriety, which was validated by a urine test, the doctor and a local social worker informed the police of the woman’s prior drug problems. Upon being arrested, she was brought to the county commissioner, who disregarded her plea for a lawyer, though “the court had already appointed a legal guardian for the fetus.” She was ordered to attend a drug treatment center for 78 days. In response to the ruling, the National Advocates for Pregnant Women filed a federal suit against the state on October 2nd, arguing the law is unconstitutional. In their official statement, the group argues that the law “deprives women of physical liberty, medical privacy, due process and other constitutional rights,” and creates a nature of fear around pregnant women seeking care. The suit also notes hundreds of similar cases, in which “low-income and minority women affected disproportionately.” Wisconsin is currently one of four states with similar fetal protection laws.

Local GOP Party Backtracks After Comparing Abortion to Slavery
On the morning of October 30th, the Republican Party of Chisago County, Minnesota posted a meme depicting a slave auction with the caption “Pro-Choice. Against Slavery? Then dont buy one.” The picture caused an instant media backlash and the group deleted the meme the same afternoon. In a statement responding to the controversy, the Party refused to name who created the picture, but noted they were “very sorry that something so clearly improper (either intended or in poor taste) ever made it to our page”, and that the Republican party “believes in Freedom for all Americans regardless of race or religion. It is after all where the Republican Party came from in its origins, the anti-slavery movement.” But not everyone was offended by the piece though. Minnesota Republican Party Secretary Chris Fields, who is African-American, told the local StarTribune that he saw “absolutely nothing offensive about that (Facebook) post.”

 

 

 

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month in Economic Justice

Economic Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Economic Justice.

Wisconsin Judge Rules In Favor of Unions, Holds WERC in Contempt of Court
A Madison judge found the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in contempt of court for enforcing provisions of the collective bargaining restrictions signed into law by Governor Scott Walker in 2011 that had previously been ruled unconstitutional. The Judge also issued an injunction which barred any future attempts to enforce these restrictions on any union in the state. The WERC was in the process of preparing certificate elections for over 400 school district worker unions to take place in November. The commission had claimed the previous ruling had only applied to unions in Madison and Milwaukee, giving them the right to enforce the restrictions across the rest of the state. In his decision on Monday, Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas ruled that his previous decision in 2012 had already wiped the provisions from existence. School districts are free to once again negotiate wages, hours, vacation, and workplace conditions. Judge Calos  also scolded the WERC for “conduct [that] was nothing more than an attempt to elude the application of a judgment the commissioners knew full well applied.”

Income Gap Rises to Highest Levels in Over a Century
Over the past few decades, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans has continuously increased. Now, the gap has reached its highest level in the past 100 years.The L.A Times reported in September that between 1993 and 2012, the real incomes of the wealthiest Americans grew 86.1 percent, while the bottom 99 percent of wage earners only grew 6.6 percent. These statistics come from an examination of IRS data by economists at UC Berkely, the Paris School of Economics, and Oxford University. The study attributes the cause of the increasing income gap not only to technological advancements and outsourcing, but to the reduced power of progressive tax policies, along with “changing social norms regarding pay inequality.”

Coalition of Immokalee Workers Honored for Protecting Rights of Laborers
On October 16th, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) were honored at the Four Freedoms Awards ceremony, an annual event hosted by the Roosevelt Institute. The award honors individuals and groups that “exemplify Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vision of Democracy outlined in his famous January 14th, 1941 address”, remembered as the “Four Freedoms Speech”. The group joins past recipients such as Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Elie Wiesel, the Dalai Lama,  and Bill and Hillary Clinton. The CIW is a worker-based human rights organization which began in 1993. They are a non-hierarchical organization which uses grassroots organizing to advocate for economic justice and labor reforms. They are most known for their Campaign for Fair Food program, which sets to “educates consumers on the issue of farm labor exploitation and forges alliances between farm workers and consumers in an effort to enlist the market power of major corporate buyers to help end that exploitation”. Through the campaign, they have successfully negotiated fair food agreements with food retailers such as McDonald’s, Whole Foods, Sodexo, and Subway to establish more humane labor standards for farm workers.

Young Children of Color in the U.S Face “Crisis Levels of Poverty”
The most recent Census Bureau data shows 42 percent of African-American children and 37 percent of Latino children under the age of 5 live under the poverty line. Growing up in poverty adds extensive physical and mental stress on young children during their most cognitive years, and affects future educational and health outcomes. These numbers are further troubling, as conservatives in Congress just finished reducing federal spending on children, with  $4.2 billion in sequester cuts to children services in 2013. Adding more salt to the wound, the bipartisan organization Family First is reporting that “Congress is considering a budget plan that would lock in or deepen these cuts for next year.”

Job Market Slowly Improves
The jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the month of September was released on October 22nd. Originally scheduled for October 4th, the report was delayed by the 16 day shutdown of the federal government. Though the economy added 148,000 jobs and unemployment hit a five-year low, the economy did not progress at a desired rate. The findings suggest that employers may have held back on hiring new workers in lieu of the potential government shutdown. Economists estimate the federal shutdown cut $25 billion from the U.S economy, which helped slow economic growth to about 2 percent for the current quarter.

Long-term Unemployment Reaches Highest Rate in Over 60 Years
Though there has been a steady (if sluggish) improvement in employment , the job reports do not factor in unemployed Americans who have given up searching for a job. The percentage of Americans looking for work remains at a 35-year low, as the recession continues to discourage people to look for jobs. Zach Mcdade and Austin Nicholls of the Urban Institute reported in September that “4.2 million Americans—37 percent of the unemployed—have been jobless for longer than six months, the highest rate by far in the last sixty years.” They note the relationship between long-term unemployment and poverty, where the long-term unemployed are more likely to be poor, and the longer a person is unemployed, the harder it becomes for them to find work.

Annual World Food Day Brings Awareness to Global Hunger
On October 16th, activist groups around the world participated in World Food Day. Held on the anniversary of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, the campaign aims to mobilize advocates to raise awareness, educate, and call for action to end global hunger. The day is observed to “create solidarity among groups working to end hunger and to educate thousands of people, young and old, about the roots of global hunger and the multi-faceted approaches to end it.” Over 450 organizations have taken part in World Food Day, highlighting effective methods of food security and the challenges facing world hunger. One of the central features of World Food Day is their annual teleconference, featuring world leaders and experts in economics, human rights, nutrition, and agriculture.

Study Finds Majority of U.S Fast-Food Workers Require Public Assistance
At the end of August, fast-food workers across the country went on strike, claiming their current median wage of $8.94 dollars per hours was unlivable and simultaneously demanding a wage increase to $15 dollars per hour. An October 15th report by Reuters, using data by the U.S Census Bureau, shows 52 percent of fast-food cooks, cashiers, and other front line staff had relied on at least one form of public assistance from 2007 to 2011. These public assistance programs include Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and the Earned Income Tax Credit. In a concurrent report using the same data, the National Employment Law Project found  “the 10 largest fast-food companies in the United States cost taxpayers more than $3.8 billion each year in public assistance.” These companies are placing the burden of providing for their employees on the taxpayers, rather than paying them a livable wage for their service.

State Legislators In Ohio Sue to Prevent Medicaid Expansion
This past Monday, the state legislative board of Ohio approved a request by Governor John Kasich to fund the Medicaid Expansion program under the Affordable Care Act. By Tuesday morning, six Republican state legislators had filed a lawsuit to halt the expansion. The lawsuit calls for the state to reject the proposal, and prohibits the state department from receiving funds from the expansion. The expansion provides Medicaid coverage to uninsured residents in the states who choose to participate, whose earnings are at or lower than 138 percent over the federal poverty level. Set to begin in January 2014, the expansion is 100 percent federally funded for the first three years (free to the states), after which federal funding slowly decreases down to 90 percent in 2020. Despite the extremely low costs to states and the opportunity to provide their most vulnerable citizens with health coverage, 22 states have declined to participate in the expansion, leaving 5.2 million Americans without insurance who would have qualified under the expansion.

Bleak Findings on “Poverty Day”
On September 17th, the U.S Census Bureau released their annual data report on poverty, or as thenation.com contributor Greg Kaufmann refers to it, “poverty day”. Kaufmann argues the biggest takeaway is not in the data itself. Rather, the overlying issue surrounding poverty in America is that “we’ve long known what to do to take the next steps in the fight against poverty, and we still know what to do to take the next steps in the fight against poverty. But we’re not doing it.” Previous reports by the Census Bureau have highlighted the potential methods of combating poverty in the United States. But the findings show they have been continuously neglected. The percentage of Americans living in poverty remains at 15 percent (over 45 million Americans living on less than $18,000 for a family of three annually). This includes 22 percent of all children, 27 percent of African-Americans, 25 percent of Latinos, and 28 percent of Americans living with disabilities. The issue goes beyond missed opportunities to create effective policy, as “we now face a Congress poised to make matters worse for those who are faring the worst in our economy.” The Congressional Budget Office estimates the cuts set by the sequester will cost over 900,000 American jobs by the third quarter of 2014. Beginning in November, there will be cuts to food stamp (SNAP) benefits which will effect 22 million children. And then there is the recent House vote to cut an additional $40 billion to nutritional supplement benefits in September.

ISSUE BRIEF: Racial and Immigrant Justice

Racial Justice

Every Friday, PRA brings you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in Race and Immigrant Justice.

California’s New Law Prohibits Deportation for Minor Crimes
Undocumented immigrants in California can breathe easier now that Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a group of bills pertaining to immigration rights. The Trust Act, known officially as California Assembly Bill 4, establishes that local law enforcement officers cannot detain undocumented immigrants for deportation if they have committed a minor and nonviolent crime. In addition, the bills also include allowing undocumented peoples to apply for professional licenses, as well as fining employers who threaten their employees with deportation. This comes with the hope of giving approximately 11 million people the opportunity to “come out of the shadows,” so they can “live without fear of deportation.”
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2013/10/07/230183623/undocumented-immigrants-in-calif-will-benefit-from-new-laws

1/3 of Asian Americans Face Voting Booth Problems.
Roughly one third of Asian Americans in the United States face issues at polling booths because of their limited knowledge of the English language. As there is no official language in the U.S., these citizens are provided assistance as outlined by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which “requires local jurisdictions to provide language assistance when the language minority population reaches a certain size and its English ability and literacy rate is low.” According to the national affiliation Asian Americans Advancing Justice, however, many districts across the country are not meeting standards. Despite these failures, AAJC has composed a list of the best practices implemented at successful jurisdictions, in hopes of encouraging officials to reexamine Section 203 to ensure that these voters receive the aid guaranteed to them by law.
http://newamericamedia.org/2013/09/asian-american-voter-bloc-grows-but-unique-challenges-persist.php

Black Pennsylvania State College Sues for ‘Illegal Racial System”
While thirteen of fourteen Philadelphia state colleges are sharing a $100 million budget surplus, the fourteenth school, Cheyney University, unlike its predominately White colleagues, is suffering a $14 million deficit. Cheyney, one of the oldest historically Black colleges in the United States, and its students, faculty, and supporters are not accepting this racial injustice. A coalition for Cheney University is currently seeking the revival of a civil rights lawsuit filed in 1980, which stated, according to the plaintiffs then and today, that Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth maintained “an illegal and racial ‘dual system’ of higher education.” Cheyney’s coalition hopes to receive more funding for their school through this lawsuit.
http://www.workers.org/articles/2013/10/04/black-school-revives-civil-rights-lawsuit/

Report Details Top Groups Promoting Islamophobia
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington-based civil rights group, has listed 37 individuals and institutions they found to be “at the center of promoting Islamophobia in America.” This information, offered in their report, titled “Legislating Fear: Islamophobia and its Impact in the United States,” also named organizations battling Islamophobia. CAIR reported that these Islamophobic nonprofit organizations have grossed more than 119 million dollars in order to tarnish the religion of Islam as a whole. With CAIR’s list, more attention can be brought to these anti-Muslim groups so that action can be taken to stop them.
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-19/national/42211614_1_islamophobia-american-muslims-nihad-awad

Native American Veterans File Federal Lawsuit for Better Voting Access
To participate in elections and exercise his constitutional rights, U.S. veteran Mark Wandering Medicine must travel a total of 157 miles. A member of the Northern Cheyenne nation in Montana, Wandering Medicine and his community have struggled to cast votes in the past because of the lengthy journey from their reservation to the nearest county seat. With no public transportation, and due to the economic injustices on American Indian reservations, it’s nearly impossible for some to even reach a voting booth. Rather than allowing this inequity to persist, Wandering Medicine and other veterans are filing a federal lawsuit. Filed on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Gros Ventre, and Assiniboine nations, they aim to receive the same treatment White voters have when it comes to voting ease.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/07/montana-north-cheyenne-reservation-voting-rights

Jan Brewer Bans Drivers Licenses for Deferred-Action Recipients in AZ
In mid-September, as a response to President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—which temporarily suspends the deportation of an undocumented immigrant who meets its criteria, allowing them to work in the U.S.—Governor Jan Brewer pushed to expand Arizona’s ban on driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The new policy now encompasses all deferred-action recipients, not just the DREAMers. Brewer claims, that “only Congress has the authority to grant non-citizens legal presence, which is required under state law to obtain a driver’s license or state ID.” This measure will be especially harmful to recently abused immigrants who are granted deferred action, because they won’t be able to receive a driver’s license to work.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/23/arizona-immigrant-drivers-license-ban/2854965/

Native Americans Hit Hard by Government Shutdown
The Native American community was one of the hardest-hit communities during the government shutdown. Because so many Native American programs depend on federal funds—from nutrition programs to financial assistance for low-income groups—this shutdown has stripped away assistance to over 75,000 people in approximately 276 nations.
http://www.abqjournal.com/274035/news/nm-news/federal-government-shutdown-hits-indian-tribes-hard.html

Judge Dismisses ACLU Lawsuit Against Racist Anti-Abortion Law in AZ
A federal district court in Arizona dismissed a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Arizona on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) of Maricopa County and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. The suit was challenging Arizona’s anti-abortion law that the groups alleged relies on harmful racial stereotypes to shame and discriminate against women of color who decide to end their pregnancies.

http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/05/29/aclu-challenges-arizonas-race-and-sex-selection-abortion-ban/
http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/10/07/federal-court-dismisses-challenge-to-arizonas-race-and-sex-selection-abortion-ban/

Report Reveals Racial Prejudice in L.A. Canine Police Unit
According to a new report on the Los Angeles Sheriff Department Canine Special Detail, in the first six months of 2013, 100 percent of the LASD dog bite victims were Black or Latino. Urban areas of Los Angeles, where a majority of the residents are people of color, have experienced more dog bites than 21 other areas with higher White populations combined. The LASD has also been singled out by the Department of Justice for their stop and seize tactics, which target mostly Black and Latino people.
http://thinkprogress.org/immigration/2013/10/10/2760181/lasd-canine-use-minorities-2013/

Video Reveals Rick Warren and Saddleback Church’s Anti-Asian Skits
White evangelicals at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California are under scrutiny after a video of the event was posted publicly, revealing White pastors engaging in a skit rife with racist Asian stereotypes. In a “parody” of the 
Karate Kid, a White pastor “joked” about “making his church-planting apprentice do menial activities, such as getting him coffee, giving him massages and holding his towel.” The pastor and apprentice then engaged in speaking with fake Chinese accents, as stereotypic Asian music played in the background, and performing a karate segment where they bow to one another. This follows Rick Warren himself posting a Facebook photo of the Red Guard during China’s Cultural Revolution with the caption: “The typical attitude of Saddleback Staff as they start work each day.” Warren later offered a weak apology, stating that he apologized if people were offended by his insensitivity. No comments have been made by the Saddleback staff regarding the skit at their conference.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/asian-americans-troubled-by-stereotypes-from-white-evangelicals/2013/10/11/6689c33e-32ab-11e3-ad00-ec4c6b31cbed_story.html

 

ISSUE BRIEF: This Month in LGBTQ Justice

LGBT Flag

Every week, PRA gives you a monthly update on a different social justice issue. This week, we are recapping the last month in LGBTQ Rights.

Providence College Cancels Debate With Prominent LGBTQ Defender
John Corvino, who has made a name for himself debating Maggie Gallagher, was due to give a lecture titled, “The Meaning of (Gay) Marriage” on September 26 at the Catholic-affiliated Providence College. A day before the lecture was scheduled, the provost of Providence College sent a message to the faculty, staff, and students, explaining that he was canceling Corvino’s lecture, citing his concern that “the event had strayed from what had originally been proposed.” The provost went on to say that he did not feel that it was fair to have a theologian staff member debate Corvino, who was to present his argument from a legal-philosophical perspective. Corvino then responded to the cancellation of his lecture, stating his disappointment with the provost.

First Ever Ministerial Meeting on LGBTQ Rights at United Nations, Russia Suspiciously Absent
On September 26, the UN held its first ministerial meeting on LGBTQ rights. According to the official brief, during the meeting the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pallay, highlighted the progress made in securing rights for LGBT people in the past decade, while also citing Eastern Europe and African countries as places where conditions are deteriorating. Free & Equal, an initiative of the United Nations Human Rights Office launched in July as a global public information campaign to promote respect for the human rights of LGBTQ people, released a three-minute highlight video from the meeting.

Pro-LGBTQ Christian Website Launches
On September 4, the NALT Christian Project launched. NALT stands for Not All Like That, and the website is a joint venture of Truth Wins Out and John Shore. The website allows Christians to upload videos in support of LGBTQ rights. Dan Savage, whose It Gets Better Campaign website inspired the format of the NALT website, came out as a supporter for the project. Peter Labarbera and Matt Barber lambasted NALT and Savage on a Liberty Counsel televised program, Faith & Freedom.

NOM Wants To Know Where You Are Going to the Bathroom
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) has expanded its scope beyond the marriage debate and is looking into school bathrooms. In a blog post titled “We Can Help Stop the Madness In California”, Brian Brown put NOM’s support behind an effort to repeal a law in California that allows transgender students to use the bathrooms that conform to their gender identity while in school. Brown chastises the state’s residents, stating “We warned Californians during the Proposition 8 campaign that once marriage was redefined, it would open the floodgates to more proposals to use the public schools to push our opponents’ activist agenda.” NOM is currently working with the Privacy for All Students Coalition towards gathering the necessary amount of signatures to get the repeal on the ballot.

Only a Handful of People Attend Voice of the Voiceless (VoV) Dinner
VoV president Christopher Doyle, along with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX), finally delivered on his promise for a dinner in honor of the “ex-gay” rights movement. September, Doyle states, is now officially “Ex-Gay Awareness Month.” The reception was a private event, and as indicted by the code of conduct on the invitation, it was also extremely exclusive. The cloak of exclusivity ineffectively disallowed media scrutiny of the event while allowing Doyle to continue to claim he has a sizable number of “ex-gays” rallying around him. According to VoV “former homosexuals are the last invisible minority in American culture”, with Doyle claiming there are tens of thousands of “ex-gays” ready to descend on Washington DC. July’s “ex-gay” pride rally confirmed many people’s suspicions that Doyle may be lying. Attendance of the dinner and reception, held on September 30, was a measly sixty people.

In the Midst of Being Sued for Crimes Against Humanity, Scott Lively Announces Gubernatorial Campaign
Scott Lively, who is currently being sued for Crimes Against Humanity in Uganda by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) over his involvement in the creation of the Anti-Homosexuality “Kill the Gays” legislation in Uganda, announced on September 30, after much speculation, that he plans to run for governor of Massachusetts as an independent. Addressing his chances of winning, Lively states that “it would take a miracle from God for Scott Lively to become Governor of Massachusetts—and I wouldn’t want it any other way.” On September 23, Lively released a statement expressing his disappointment that a federal judge “denied my motion to allow me to appeal his denial of my Motion to Dismiss the outrageous SMUG lawsuit.” Lively claims that he is “just a pawn in this international power play.”

IOC Officially Demurs On Russia’s Anti-“Propaganda” Law
The International Olympic Committee released their official statement on the Games in Sochi after an international outcry over Russia’s anti-gay anti-“propaganda” law. The statement comes out in favor of “human rights”, and goes on to say that “this legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the games in Sochi…To that end, the IOC has received assurance from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” President Putin has already banned protests at the Games in Sochi and has ordered to strictly restrict access to the city during the Games, suggesting that he believes he can assure conflict-free Games by engineering an environment that makes protest impossible. For more information on the anti-propaganda law, Human Rights First has released this report: http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/uploads/pdfs/HRF-russias-anti-gay-ban-SG.pdf

Brian Brown Can’t Speak Russian, But His Anti-Gay Rhetoric Transcends Language
According to a new report by RightWingWatch, in June, days after Russia passed its anti-“propaganda” law, NOM president Brian Brown attended a Duma committee on family, women, and children to discuss, among other things, Russia’s plan for adoption by same-sex couples. Promoting the idea that gay marriage and adoption by gay couples are “indivisible” issues, Brown stated, “Every child should have the right to have normal parents: a father and a mother” (translated from Russian). Five days after Brown’s trip, the Duma passed a bill banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples. Russia is now considering a bill that would deny parents custody of their own biological children if they identify as gay. The law will be under consideration in February, possibly coinciding with the Sochi Olympic Games.

PRA Sponsors Two Screenings of God Loves Uganda
This week PRA sponsored two screenings of Roger Ross Williams’ documentary God Loves Uganda, one in Boston and another in Chicago. In an interview with PRA, Williams explains that he decided to focus on American evangelicalism in Uganda after a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death was introduced in Parliament there in 2009. His research for the movie began with Globalizing the Culture Wars, a report published by PRA. The film includes interviews with Scott Lively, Lou Engle, Martin Ssempa, and young IHOP missionaries in Uganda. If you would like to find a screening or sponsor one in your area, follow this link: http://www.godlovesuganda.com/.

Political Research Associates Launches New Webpage Exposing Link Between American Conservatives and Anti-Gay Sentiment in Africa
The Boston-based national social justice think tank is pushing to further expose the direct links between American conservatives, especially evangelical ministers, and anti-gay sentiment, legislation, and violence across the continent of Africa. The page includes their full investigative reports, videos, supporting articles, and full profiles of the key players on the right. You can see the page here.