FDL Book Salon Welcomes M. V. Lee Badgett, When Gay People Get Married

Welcome M. V. Lee Badgett, Professor, and Host, Lane Hudson.

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

Today’s book salon with Lee Badgett discussing her book, ‘When Gay People Get Married’, is incredibly timely. On the heels of Judge Walker’s order finding Prop 8 unconstitutional, America has begun anew a conversation about whether same sex couples ought to be afforded the same right to marry as opposite sex couples.

Few people are as studied and knowledgeable as Lee Badgett on this subject. Aside from her professional roles as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and as Research Director for UCLA’s Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy, she and her wife were married in Massachusetts soon after it became the first state in the U.S. to afford marriage rights to same sex couples.

The work of Lee and her colleagues at the Williams Institute has played a largely unnoticed, yet hugely influential role in both shaping the conversation on marriage and in shaping legal opinions. While their research is regularly cited in the mainstream media, it is most powerful when their research is cited in judicial rulings granting marriage equality. This happened in nearly every such case decided favorably in the United States. (more…)

Unions, Health Care Reform, and the cycle of domestic abuse in Washington

Michael Whitney has a post on the pickle that unions find themselves in: whether caving to the White House on a disappointing health care reform bill will result in increased support for passing the Employee Free Choice Act. Thus far, neither the union movement nor the larger Progressive movement has figured out that our agenda will not be adopted by those in power unless they are forced to.

Joe Lieberman’s actions in the Senate health care debate are a powerful lesson for Progressives. Jane Hamsher and others worked diligently to whip and organize the Progressive Caucus in the House (and continue to do so) to vote against any health care reform bill that lacked a strong public option so that any scenario that came up with a winning number of votes would require them, along with their demands.

Lieberman became the most powerful Senator in the health care debate NOT by giving it early support and hoping that his demands would be met at some point along the way. Instead, he withheld support until the bitter end, when his vote was needed for passage. He was patient and calculating and got everything he wanted. Of course he has no conscience and that makes it easy for him to fuck over other people, but his strategy was successful by any measure. He, more than any one Senator impacted the outcome of the Senate bill.

When [insert special interest group or Progressives in general] stop offering support up front, they will become much more important when the White House or Congressional Leadership is having trouble putting together a winning voting bloc. What experienced political organization gives unequivocal financial and political support to something without knowing ANY of the details? It’s tantamount to malpractice.

Imagine if unions hadn’t blown tens of millions of dollars "greasing the way" for health care reform on what can fairly be described as ‘at best a private assurance that EFCA would be acted on at some point’. Then, they would have had abundant resources and their significant political support badly needed by the White House and Leadership when the HCR debate was in the final, most critical stages.

The unions were severely outplayed by Rahm and Company. They got used like an mentally abused girlfriend who keeps convincing herself that deep down, he really does love her. But at the end of this particular cycle of abuse, she is out of cash, knocked up, lacking health insurance and the boyfriend refuses to help her.

Until the abused girlfriend stands up for herself, exerts her own strength, starts acting in her own best interest and is ready to walk away, the abuse will continue.

Washington is largely about self preservation. If the unions don’t act in this instance to preserve themselves, then they deserve what fate awaits them. Along with destroying themselves, they will harm working people and a myriad of progressives causes that would make their lives and our entire country a stronger and better place.

FDL Book Salon Welcomes Stuart Weisberg, Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman

Stuart Weisberg - Barney Frank bookWelcome Stuart Weisberg, and Host Lane Hudson.  [As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]

Barney Frank: The Story of America’s Only Left-Handed, Gay, Jewish Congressman

Barney Frank is one of the most well-known members of the United States Congress.  His sharp wit and even sharper tongue provide the media, pundits, and political observers with a seemingly endless supply of one-liners that Sarah Palin only wishes she could deliver.

Nearly everyone refers to him simply as Barney.  He’s become one of those politicians who is so well branded that the entire world seems to be on a first name basis.  It’s a rare status in the political world but one that is well deserved in his case.

One’s ‘time of entry’ into political awareness most likely affects the appreciation for someone like Barney.  For me, Barney is someone that I have grown to appreciate more and more over time. In a world of elected officials that cling to ‘safe’ positions and live in fear of saying the wrong thing, Barney is entirely authentic.  Time and again, he can be counted on to provide both insightful and simple commentary on the issues of the day. (more…)

What’s next after Big Gay Weekend? ActOnPrinciples.org

This past weekend was historic. An unprecedented amount of media attention was given to the lack of civil equality for LGBT people because of the President’s speech at the HRC National Dinner and because of the National Equality March.

The big question following the weekend is whether the momentum will continue. Many critics of the march hold out little hope that they will be able to capitalize on the larger than expected turnout and turn it into concrete action to promote equality and pass legislation. That’s why I’m happy to announce a new effort that will help build on the momentum of this past weekend: Act on Principles.

Act On Principles is inspired by The Dallas Principles, which you may already be familiar with and is a call for full civil equality with ‘no delay and no excuses’. Act On Principles now gives us tools that put those principles into action. You can find it at: www.ActOnPrinciples.org

There is a video on the front page (and embedded below) that does a great job explaining the site. Here are the basics of what AOP has to offer:

Blog for Strategy
Action Hub (searchable by State)
Public Whip Count on LGBT legislation in Congress (this will change how Washington works!)
Widgets for websites with up to date Whip Counts (it would be awesome on your site!)
– iPhone compatability (work for equality on the go!)
– Built in social networking and news aggregator functionality (share what you are doing to multiply its effect)
– A daily digest email summarizing activity over the previous day

The AOP site is a resource for our movement and it will only be successful in furthering the Dallas Principles with large scale participation. Please go there, register, sign up for the daily digest email, and use the tools as much as you can. We are often told to do something to help achieve equality, but rarely given a specific thing to do. AOP provides the missing guidance and allows you to do something about it while sitting at your computer. You can do something every day or once a week. You determine your level of commitment.

Please share this with your networks. Facebook it, Tweet it, Forward it. Thanks for reading and thanks for helping to build on the momentum we are seeing in our journey to being full and equal in the eyes of our government.

PS – You can follow AOP on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ActOnPrinciples

Health Care Reform: Democrats Can Honor Their Legacy, America’s Will, and Also Win Elections

speech3.thumbnail.jpgTonight, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress, whose members are freshly returned from August recess. How what the President said will affect the national discussion on health care reform over the coming days and weeks remains to be seen. What is absolutely certain is that the discussion over the past month has been hijacked by the delusional claims of people whose agenda consists of little more than scoring cheap political points.

The greatest and most offensive inequities in this nation happen when someone is denied medical care. That this concept does not drive to the core of every elected official who holds the public trust is a threat to our Democracy.

The bottom line is insurance companies don’t care, Democrats have a real mandate, Republicans won’t support anything, and it’s time to flex some muscle. Before the discussion even began in earnest, insurance companies already won when a single payer plan was replaced with a goal of universal coverage. Let me say what no one is saying:

– Health insurance companies are corporations with a fiduciary responsibility to earn a profit for its shareholders.

– They do not have a legal responsibility to provide medical care.

– Yet, health insurance companies are the primary means of access to medical care for Americans.

– All of the above points to a system that is badly broken.

While requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions is progress, it’s kind of like bailing out the Titanic with a teacup. There are now 50 MILLION people without health insurance and therefore without proper access to medical care. It is a national crisis and it’s time that Washington acted with a sense of urgency in addressing it. (more…)

Dems can honor legacy AND win elections on health care

Tonight, President Obama addresses a joint session of Congress, whose members are freshly returned from August recess. What the President will say and how it will affect the national discussion on health care reform remains to be seen. What is absolutely certain is that the discussion over the past month has been hijacked by delusional claims by people whose agenda consists of little more than scoring cheap political points.

The greatest and most offensive inequities in this nation happen when someone is denied medical care. That this concept does not drive to the core of every elected official who holds the public trust is a threat to our Democracy.

The bottom line is insurance companies don’t care, Democrats have a real mandate, Republicans won’t support anything, and it’s time to flex some muscle. Before the discussion even began in earnest, insurance companies already won when a single payer plan was replaced with a goal of universal coverage. Let me say what no one is saying:

– Health insurance companies are corporations with a fiduciary responsibility to earn a profit for its shareholders.

– They do not have a legal responsibility to provide medical care.

– Yet, health insurance companies are the primary means of access to medical care for Americans.

– All of the above points to a system that is badly broken.

While requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions is progress, it’s kind of like bailing out the Titanic with a teacup. There are now 50 MILLION people without health insurance and therefore without proper access to medical care. It is a national crisis and it’s time that Washington acted with a sense of urgency in addressing it.

Democrats enjoy larger majorities in the Congress than we have had in a generation. We have a President who made health care a central tenant of his campaign for election. The American people have charged them with the awesome responsibility for making our nation a more fair and just place.

Republicans have made it clear that they will not be a part of the solution. It is a simple political calculation for them. Each day that passes, the President’s approval rating slips, making it easier for them to obstruct the progress that America so badly needs. Further, they have incited enough fear to prompt the usual Blue Dog Democratic fear of doing what they were elected to do. Hence, we find ourselves in the political quandary of cobbling together enough votes to pass reform that includes a public option, which is absolutely critical in forcing private health insurance companies to be better through competition.

What’s the way forward? It’s time for the White House and Democratic Leadership to get its act together and put together the votes. The political reality is that passing a bill with a robust public option is NOT a liability. The Republicans have actually created a huge opportunity for Democrats. On the one hand, we can retreat from our values and deliver them a huge victory that they will continue to hammer us with. Or we can defy the fears they have conjured and pass the bill.

When the situations they have predicted never come to pass, they will pay a long term political price for hindering and voting against what may be seen as the greatest piece of social progress made in decades. By passing real health care reform with a public option now, it will become a huge asset to Democrats by the time the 2010 election rolls around.

So get to it! As soon as a robust bill is passed, the politics of the situation will turn quickly in favor of the Democrats and we will have honored our Party’s tradition of taking on the greatest challenges of our nation at the most difficult of times. (more…)

President Clinton: Your legacy on gay issues is about the future, not the past

Mr. President:

Please accept my apology for interrupting your speech at Netroots Nation. I was raised in the South, as you were, and my mother taught me better. But once in a while, the circumstances of history throw manners out the window.

I know you weren't able to hear my full question. In a setting such as a convention hall, it's not exactly conducive to a productive conversation. What I said was, “Mr. President, will you call for the repeal of DOMA and Don't Ask, Don't Tell right now? Please.” At least a little of my Southern upbringing came through.

(more…)

Pres. Clinton: Your legacy on gay issues is about the future, not the past

Mr. President:

Please accept my apology for interrupting your speech at Netroots Nation.  I was raised in the South, as you were, and my mother taught me better.  But once in a while, the circumstances of history throw manners out the window.

I know you weren’t able to hear my full question.  In a setting such as a convention hall, it’s not exactly conducive to a productive conversation.  What I said was, “Mr. President, will you call for the repeal of DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell right now?  Please.”  See, at least a little of my Southern upbringing came through. 

The moment kind of overcame me and I didn’t set out to interrupt your speech.  But you need to understand that you have been an inspiration to me.  You are what inspired me to become involved in politics.  I believed you when you said to the gay community, “I have a vision for America and you are a part of it”.  And I still believe it.

You are such a passionate person and I love that about you.  When you heard me yell from the audience at Netroots Nation, probably all you heard was “DOMA and Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” and assumed that someone was chastising you for having signed them into law, but that’s not what I was doing.  (more…)

Why I Interrupted Bill Clinton’s Speech at Netroots Nation

I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes. Sometimes we even are forced to do things we don’t want to. That’s why I was prepared to ask Bill Clinton a tough question last night as he delivered the opening keynote address at Netroots Nation 2009.

But it became clear there would be no questions. As I sat in the audience thinking about how Netroots Nation is about celebrating the most open forum of discussion ever to exist, it occurred to me that we were nothing more than a captive audience being talked to. One way communication was NOT what we were there to celebrate and advance.

As I considered this, I turned to my friend who had helped to formulate the question I wanted to ask and said, “I might just yell something out.” I couldn’t believe I said it. I mean, blogging and speaking my mind is one thing, but to yell it out in a large public forum to a former President of the United States is quite another.

He talked about a new progressive era and how America has changed. Yet, there was no reflection on how that change could undo some big mistakes from his Presidency. So, at the point that he said, “We need an honest, principled debate”, I knew I had to try to stimulate the discussion. So, I stood and said, “Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Right now?” (more…)

Why I Interrupted Bill Clinton’s Speech at Netroots Nation

I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes. Sometimes we even are forced to do things we don’t want to. That’s why I was prepared to ask Bill Clinton a tough question last night as he delivered the opening keynote address at Netroots Nation 2009.

But it became clear there would be no questions. As I sat in the audience thinking about how Netroots Nation is about celebrating the most open forum of discussion ever to exist, it occurred to me that we were nothing more than a captive audience being talked to. One way communication was NOT what we were there to celebrate and advance.

As I considered this, I turned to my friend who had helped to formulate the question I wanted to ask and said, “I might just yell something out.” I couldn’t believe I said it. I mean, blogging and speaking my mind is one thing, but to yell it out in a large public forum to a former President of the United States is quite another.

He talked about a new progressive era and how America has changed. Yet, there was no reflection on how that change could undo some big mistakes from his Presidency. So, at the point that he said, “We need an honest, principled debate”, I knew I had to try to stimulate the discussion. So, I stood and said, “Mr. President, will you call for a repeal of DOMA and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Right now?”

The immediate response shocked me at the time and still does. Those surrounding me yelled at me, booed, and told me to sit down. One elderly lady even told me to leave. While I was among the supposed most progressive audience in the country, they sought to silence someone asking a former President to speak out on behalf of repealing two laws that TOOK AWAY RIGHTS OF A MINORITY. I was shocked.

The immediate Twitter stream with the hashtag #NN09 was not much different. I sent out a few tweets and once people who knew me saw it was me and that I was asking Clinton to call for repeal of those two discriminatory laws, there was plenty of support. Thanks y’all! Here is a link to the video. I’ll let you judge for yourselves the reaction of the audience (I especially LOVE the “I love you Bill!!!” while he was justifying DADT.)

What happened that was really important, however, is that President Clinton did address the issues that I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have without my forcing the conversation. Of course, he started with a strident defense of how DOMA and DADT went down on his watch. But, I already knew that story. It was the present that I cared about, not the past.

Thankfully, he got around to the present. He made the strongest objection to DADT he has ever made to the best of my knowledge. He clearly called for the policy being changed. On DOMA, he spent much less time, but lamented its passage and doing a half-hearted kind of call for repeal, “I don’t like the DOMA”.

It’s not spectacular, but it’s progress.

Too often, we don’t challenge people to admit mistakes. Too often we hold idols up to a place they don’t deserve. Like I said, I love Bill Clinton, but we all make mistakes and live in a less than perfect world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for the perfect.

He mentioned in his speech that he admired that we bloggers could speak our mind. That’s what I did. In today’s world, a former President that has now said he supports marriage equality should find it easy to say without equivocation that he supports repealing two discriminatory laws that he felt he had no choice but to sign into law. He didn’t do that, but he needs to.

So, to the folks in the audience at #NN09, I just wanted to make sure he talked about two issues that mean a great deal to me and many others. (I didn’t know it at the time, but Lt. Dan Choi was in the audience.) I wouldn’t have yelled from the audience and interrupted if we weren’t being held as a captive audience.

But at the end of the day, I’ll take the heckler title if you all want to give it to me. The yelling at me is okay, too. Heck, I’ll even take the initial comment from the President that likened me to a health care town hall protester. None of it matters because a little bit of progress was made. President Clinton even came around later in his speech saying he was glad “that young man challenged me tonight”.

There is hope for our heralded former President to make those unequivocal statements that I was hoping for. Even more importantly, I hope that my fellow progressive movement activists will never sit in a captive audience and talk down to others who are working hard to advance progressive issues.