John McCain worried ENDA will lead to “reverse discrimination” – Salon.com

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would criminalize workplace discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, is set to get a vote in the Senate sometime before Thanksgiving, but while the support of 57 Democrats (and Independent Bernie Sanders) seems likely, it still falls short of a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

In an effort to push that number over the top, advocates and supporters of the bill have focused on a handful of Republican senators, including Arizona’s John McCain. But McCain has shown some resistance to supporting the bill, telling the Huffington Post that he worries it might inspire “reverse discrimination.”

via John McCain worried ENDA will lead to “reverse discrimination” – Salon.com.

Shutdown took $24 billion bite out of economy – Oct. 16, 2013

The United States may have dodged an economic catastrophe by raising the debt ceiling and opening the government, but it didn’t emerge from the political debacle unscathed.

The 16-day government shutdown took a $24 billion chunk out of the U.S. economy, according to an initial analysis from Standard & Poor’s.

As a result, the rating agency projects that the U.S. economy will grow 2.4% in the fourth quarter — as opposed to the roughly 3% growth rate predicted prior to the shutdown.

via Shutdown took $24 billion bite out of economy – Oct. 16, 2013.

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Support for marriage equality lowest among blacks, Republicans in Texas | Dallas Voice

A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that 63 percent of Texas voters believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry or form civil unions in the Lone Star State.

The poll found that 34 percent support marriage equality, which is lower than a recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Support is still lagging among black and Republican voters, according to the PPP poll.

Among those who identified as very liberal, 74 percent support marriage equality and 18 percent are in favor of civil unions. As for very conservative voters, 4 percent support same-sex marriage and 45 favor civil unions. Eighteen percent of very liberal voters opposed any form of relationship recognition, compared to 48 percent of very conservative voters.

African-American Texans have the strongest opposition to same-sex relationship recognition, with 44 percent opposing any recognition, compared to 31 percent of white voters and 21 percent of Hispanic voters. Twenty-one percent of African-Americans support civil unions with 18 percent supporting same-sex marriage. White voters supported marriage by 33 percent and 31 percent favoring civil unions. Hispanics favored civil unions by 44 percent with 29 percent supporting marriage.

The poll also found that 75 percent of those surveyed believe employers shouldn’t be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation and 54 percent support the Voting Rights Act.

The poll surveyed 500 registered voters between June 28 and July 1. The margin of error was plus/minus 4.4 percentvia Support for marriage equality lowest among blacks, Republicans in Texas | Dallas Voice.

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OP-ED: Murkowski Shares Thoughts on Marriage Equality with Alaskans

The Pursuit of Happiness – Without Government Interference

Not too long ago, I had the honor of nominating an Alaskan family as “Angels in Adoption,” a celebration of the selflessness shown by foster care families and those who adopt children.  They arrived in Washington, DC, a military family who had opened their doors to not one child but four siblings to make sure that these sisters and brother had the simplest gift you can give a child: a home together.  We had lunch together, and they shared their stories with me.  All the while, the children politely ate lunch and giggled as content youngsters do.  Given my daily hectic Senate schedule, it’s not often that I get to sit down with such a happy family during a workday – and I think of them often, as everything our nation should encourage.

I bring them up because the partners were two women who had first made the decision to open their home to provide foster care to the eldest child in 2007.  Years later – and after a deployment abroad with the Alaska National Guard for one of them – they embraced the joy and sacrifice of four adopted children living under the same roof, with smiles, laughter, movie nights, parent-teacher conferences and runny noses.

Yet despite signing up and volunteering to give themselves fully to these four adorable children, our government does not meet this family halfway and allow them to be legally recognized as spouses. After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room – and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner.  They do not get considered for household health care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide.  This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.

The Supreme Court is set to make a pair of decisions on the topic of marriage equality shortly, and the national conversation on this issue is picking back up. This is a significant moment for our nation when it comes to rethinking our society’s priorities and the role of government in Americans’ private lives and decisions, so I want to be absolutely clear with Alaskans. I am a life-long Republican because I believe in promoting freedom and limiting the reach of government.  When government does act, I believe it should encourage family values.  I support the right of all Americans to marry the person they love and choose because I believe doing so promotes both values:  it keeps politicians out of the most private and personal aspects of peoples’ lives – while also encouraging more families to form and more adults to make a lifetime commitment to one another.  While my support for same sex civil marriage is something I believe in, I am equally committed to guaranteeing that religious freedoms remain inviolate, so that churches and other religious institutions can continue to determine and practice their own definition of marriage.

With the notion of marriage – an exclusive, emotional, binding ‘til death do you part’ tie – becoming more and more an exception to the rule given a rise in cohabitation and high rates of divorce, why should the federal government be telling adults who love one another that they cannot get married, simply because they happen to be gay?   I believe when there are so many forces pulling our society apart, we need more commitment to marriage, not less.

This thinking is consistent with what I hear from more and more Alaskans especially our younger generations.  Like the majority of Alaskans, I supported a constitutional amendment in 1998 defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, but my thinking has evolved as America has witnessed a clear cultural shift.  Fifteen years after that vote, I find that when one looks closer at the issue, you quickly realize that same sex unions or civil marriages are consistent with the independent mindset of our state – and they deserve a hands-off approach from our federal policies.

First, this is a personal liberty issue and has to do with the most important personal decision that any human makes.  I believe that, as Americans, our freedoms come from God and not government, and include the rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence:  life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What could be more important to the pursuit of happiness than the right to choose your spouse without asking a Washington politician for permission?    If there is one belief that unifies most Alaskans – our true north – it is less government and more freedom.  We don’t want the government in our pockets or our bedrooms; we certainly don’t need it in our families.

Secondly, civil marriage also touches the foundation of our national culture: safe, healthy families and robust community life. In so many ways, sound families are the foundation of our society.  Any efforts or opportunity to expand the civil bonds and rights to anyone that wants to build a stable, happy household should be promoted.

Thirdly, by focusing on civil marriage — but also reserving to religious institutions the right to define marriage as they see fit — this approach respects religious liberty by stopping at the church door.   As a Catholic, I see marriage as a valued sacrament that exists exclusively between a man and a woman.  Other faiths and belief systems feel differently about this issue – and they have every right to.  Churches must be allowed to define marriage and conduct ceremonies according to their rules, but the government should not tell people who they have a right to marry through a civil ceremony.

I recently read an interview where Ronald Reagan’s daughter said that she believes he would have supported same-sex marriage, that he would think “What difference does it make to anybody else’s life? I also think because he wanted government out of peoples’ lives, he would not understand the intrusion of government banning such a thing. This is not what he would have thought government should be doing.”

Like Reagan, Alaskans believe that government works best when it gets out of the way.  Countless Alaskans and Americans want to give themselves to one another and create a home together.  I support marriage equality and support the government getting out of the way to let that happen.

Op-Eds – Press Office – United States Senator Lisa Murkowski.

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Rep. Louie Gohmert links gay marriage to bestiality | Texas on the Potomac | a Chron.com blog

There he goes again.

Rep. Louie Gohmert is back in the news after a liberal watchdog group dug up a conference call in which the Tyler Republican connected gay marriage to bestiality. Somehow, Gohmert managed to do that while talking about guns.

Right Wing Watch, a self-proclaimed watchdog on the “right-wing agenda,” reported today on comments the congressman made in early February during a conference call for the organization Tea Party Unity.

The discussion turned to gun violence and the threat of gun control, when Gohmert recalled negotiations with Democrats and their attempt to reason that limiting the number of rounds in a magazine is a small aspect that both parties could reach an agreement on.

Gohmert continued:

“Well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not, somebody has a love for an animal?

There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.”

This isn’t the first time Gohmert drew this conclusion on LGBT issues. Gohmert previously disapproved of theMatthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Bill, saying it would legalize bestiality, necrophilia and pedophilia. He made the comments during a debate on repealing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also has linked gay marriage to bestiality, although he later deniedmaking those comments

via Rep. Louie Gohmert links gay marriage to bestiality | Texas on the Potomac | a Chron.com blog.

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G.O.P. Authorizes 3 Million for DOMA Defense – NYTimes.com

Republican lawmakers are threatening to put the nation’s financial health at risk over a ritual vote to raise the debt ceiling, but they don’t actually object to throwing away money. Case in point: they seem to relish spending taxpayer dollars on the plainly unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act.

The 1996 law prohibits federal recognition of marriages between people of the same sex. It was signed – to his shame – by President Bill Clinton, and for years the government defended DOMA in court against lawsuits. But in 2011 President Obama instructed the Justice Department to relent – after Justice concluded that the law was not constitutional.

Cue the budget-conscious Republicans on Capitol Hill, who authorized the spending of up to $2.75 million in public funds to hire lawyers to defend DOMA on their behalf. Apparently, that was not a big enough check, so on Jan. 4, the House Republicans raised the fee ceiling to $3 million.

On Tuesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner protesting the spending, which the G.O.P. leadership somehow forgot to mention at any of the dozens of press conferences they’ve held to preach the gospel of fiscal responsibility.

“This clandestine commitment of taxpayer funds is highly irregular and objectionable, and it must end now,” they wrote, pointing out that defending DOMA is futile since it violates Constitutional guarantees of equal protection.

The Defense of Marriage Act is perhaps the last example of officially sanctioned discrimination in the United States. Until Congress repeals it or the Supreme Court strikes it down, a select group of Americans will be denied the benefits and recognition provided to all other married Americans, and state laws that allow gay unions will have only limited effect

G.O.P. Authorizes 3 Million for DOMA Defense – NYTimes.com.

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Democrats Blast Increased House Legal Fees for Defense of DOMA : Roll Call News

Two top House Democrats are criticizing House Republicans for spending additional taxpayer funds to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

On Jan. 4, Rep. Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., the new chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, approved a contract with the law firm Bancroft PLLC increasing the agreed-upon ceiling on fees for defense of the law from $2 million to $3 million.

In a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner Tuesday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said they should have been consulted before the agreement was signed.

Both Democratic lawmakers are members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, which decides how the House acts in court. BLAG is comprised of three members of the majority party leadership in the House and two members of the minority party leadership.

via Democrats Blast Increased House Legal Fees for Defense of DOMA : Roll Call News.

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House GOP Boosts Funds for DOMA Legal Defense : Roll Call Policy

House Republicans have quietly raised the value of a contract with a private law firm that is handling the chamber’s Supreme Court defense of a 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman.

House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif., signed off in September on a $500,000 increase in the maximum value of the contract with the firm, Washington-based Bancroft. Republicans have raised the cap of the contract twice: first on Sept. 29, 2011, from its original maximum of $500,000 to $1.5 million, and again on Sept. 28 to its new maximum of $2 million.

Although the latest lifting of the contract cap occurred almost three months ago, House Democrats — and the public — were in the dark about the move until this week. House Republicans did not share the revised contract with Democrats until Thursday, according to Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Hammill provided a copy of the contract modification to CQ Roll Call.

Indeed, Democrats were so out of the loop that Pelosi’s office released figures on Oct. 16 showing that the taxpayer expenses for the defense of the law nearly had hit their cap of $1.5 million. But that was almost three weeks after Lungren had raised the cap to $2 million.

Pelosi blasted House Republicans in a statement Thursday for “wasting taxpayer dollars to defend the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act.”

“Hiding this contract from voters in the midst of an election season was a cynical move at best, and a betrayal of the public trust at worst,” she said. “Republicans should not be spending $2 million to defend discrimination in our country.”

Republicans have been forced to raise the contract’s maximum value as legal challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act have mounted in courts across the country. The GOP-led House is defending the measure because the Obama administration decided in February 2011 that it views the statute as unconstitutional and will no longer do so.

via House GOP Boosts Funds for DOMA Legal Defense : Roll Call Policy.

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10 Florida Republicans Who Helped Make Voting More Difficult (PHOTOS)

Who is responsible for Florida’s second infamous elections debacle since 2000?

There will be plenty of blame to go around, especially when Miami-Dade County finally finishes counting provisional ballots and gets to the bottom of who declined to shore up voting operations, and when. But blame will also likely fall on conservative state legislators, who fought for two years to reduce the number of early voting days and limit registration after heavy 2008 turnout in the state for Democrats.

Obama won the most where the lines were the longest,” former state Sen. Dan Gelber (D-Miami Beach) told the Tampa Bay Times, speaking of the 2012 turnout.

Gelber called the law reducing early voting “hubris and overreaching by the Republicans, who may learn a lesson that ‘Maybe we shouldn’t abuse our prisoners that much because sometimes they’ll get back at you.'”

Citing admittedly non-existent fraud, the GOP gang reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to 8, eliminating the Sunday before Election Day disproportionately preferred, in large numbers, by blacks, Hispanics, young people and first-time voters.

As a result, many voters were squished onto a final Saturday of early voting, with lines so long the last voters in Miami cast their ballots at 1 a.m. Some voters were forced to leave lines to care for children or keep appointments, sending even more South Floridians back to the lines on Tuesday.

via 10 Florida Republicans Who Helped Make Voting More Difficult (PHOTOS).

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