The gay conservative political organization GOProud has endorsed anti-gay former Republican governor Tommy Thompson in the Wisconsin Senate race contest against openly lesbian Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, reports The Advocate.
Tommy Thompson is a common-sense conservative who will focus on creating jobs and growing the economy for all Wisconsin,” said GOProud executive director Jimmy LaSalvia in a statement. “Governor Thompson’s experience and leadership uniquely qualify him to serve in the U.S. Senate.”
Thompson, a four-term former governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, won a hotly contested, four-way primary last week. His win marked a break in this year’s trend of tea party upsets over establishment Republican figures, and arguably delivered the toughest general election challenger to Baldwin. ...
The GOProud statement largely focused on economic policy, but it devoted one sentence to “issues of particular importance to gay and lesbian voters in Wisconsin,” saying that Thompson opposes a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
During Thompson's short-lived and ill-fated run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007, he infamously said that it should "acceptable" to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the private sector. Thompson also opposes marriage equality and supports the Defense of Marriage Act.
GOProud really should give it up. They're not even trying to fake it anymore.
President Obama has released this statement on Rep. Barney Frank's (D-MA) retirement, raising his leadership on finance, housing reform and LGBT issues.
This country has never had a Congressman like Barney Frank, and the House of Representatives will not be the same without him. For over 30 years, Barney has been a fierce advocate for the people of Massachusetts and Americans everywhere who needed a voice. He has worked tirelessly on behalf of families and businesses and helped make housing more affordable. He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them. And it is only thanks to his leadership that we were able to pass the most sweeping financial reform in history designed to protect consumers and prevent the kind of excessive risk-taking that led to the financial crisis from ever happening again. Barney’s passion and his quick wit will be missed in the halls of Congress, and Michelle and I join the people of the Bay State in thanking him for his years of service.
One-hundred and thirty-three members of the 192-strong House Democratic caucus have filed an amicusbrief siding with groups challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, saying that the provision denying same-sex married couples federal rights is unconstitutional.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced the filing yesterday on Twitter. Pelosi and other members who signed the brief argue "that the key section of the law is unconstitutional because it was passed quickly, driven by biases and lacks 'a rational relationship to any legitimate federal purpose,'" reports Politico.
In the brief, the members—including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer and Reps. Jerry Nadler, John Conyers, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis, among others — state that Congress "acted hastily" when DOMA was enacted.
Among those Democrats signing onto the amicus curiae, 14 members—including Hoye—voted for the bill’s passage in 1996. Reps. Jim Clyburn, Robert Andrews, Earl Blumenauer, Rosa DeLauro, Loyld Doggett, Michael Doyle, Bob Filner, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sander Levin, Nita Lowey, Richard Neal, Ed Pastor and Bobby Rush also supported DOMA in 1996. Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee voted present.
The Obama Administration announced in February that it will NOT defend recent lawsuits challenging DOMA. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has hired counsel through the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to defend DOMA's constitutionality.
The brief was co-signed by the entire House Democratic leadership, most of the Progressive Caucus and most of the Congressional Black Caucus, including John Conyers, Maxine Waters, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Barbara Lee, Jesse Jackson Jr., Chaka Fatah, Emanuel Cleaver and many others.
Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin has officially announced that she is entering the 2012 Senate race to succeed the retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. If elected, the seven-term congresswoman would become the nation's first openly gay senator.
Baldwin entered the campaign with a video announcement, an email to supporters and an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The newspaper described her as the "likely front-runner for her party's nomination".
If she wins, Baldwin would be the first openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate. The fact is, I've been honest about my sexual orientation my entire adult life," she said. "And integrity is important in public service. But what voters are looking for is somebody who understands them, is fighting for them and won't give up. The election is not going to be about me, it's about the voters."
Baldwin's liberal record - a solid credential among Democratic activists - would likely play a large role in a general election campaign. To win statewide, Baldwin would not only have to claim some independents, she would have to hold on to conservative Democrats in Milwaukee County.
Asked if she is a Madison liberal, Baldwin said: "What I am is a fighter. And when I fight for my constituents and when I fight for working people, that means standing up to some pretty powerful interests. And when you do that, it's not unusual that they pick labels. But what I am is a fighter."
One of the potential leading Republican candidates is former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who also was the health secretary in the George H.W. Bush Administration. During his ill-fated run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007, Thompson said it was "acceptable" to discriminate against gays and lesbians in the private sector. Thompson later backpedaled.
Sources close to Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., have told the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund she is very likely to run for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Sen. Herb Kohl, who has decided not to run for reelection in 2012. If Baldwin runs and wins, she would become the nation’s first openly LGBT member of the U.S. senate.
“This would obviously be a top priority for us. Tammy Baldwin has been an outstanding congresswoman, and she’d be an outstanding senator,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Baldwin repeatedly. In 1998, when Baldwin became the first openly LGBT candidate to win election to the U.S. Congress as a freshman, the Victory Fund raised nearly a quarter million dollars for her campaign.
Baldwin made history in 1998 as the first openly LGBT candidate to win election to Congress as a freshman.
Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade notes that a statewide primary and Senate campaign "would be more challenging for Baldwin" than the electorate in her own Democratic-leaning district but ...
Despite the challenge that Baldwin could face, recent events in Wisconsin could tilt the odds of winning a Senate seat in her favor. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) agenda, which has included a restriction on collective bargaining rights of state workers, has energized Democrats in Wisconsin. Baldwin was vocal in her support for the union rights during the debate and could capitalize on her visibility during the often heated discussion in her pursuit of higher office.
A group of Democratic lawmakers lead by Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore are asking the Defense Department to allow all service members discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to apply for honorable-discharge status—which would make them eligible for veterans' benefits.
The 32 signatories of the letter include the four openly gay members of Congress—Reps. Barney Frank (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), David Cicilline (RI) and Jared Polis (CO), reports the Washington Blade.
In the letter to Gates, the lawmakers note that service members separated under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" may not have received "honorable" discharges. Some discharged troops may have received a “general” or “other than honorable” discharge, the lawmakers write, and those discharged under the prior regulatory ban could have received a “dishonorable” discharge. The letter states that these designations could impair these service members’ ability to receive veterans benefits.
The letter notes that former service members seeking to change the designation of their discharge can petition the Service Boards for the Correction of Military Records or Service Discharge Review Boards for redress. Still, the lawmakers write that the process for these petitions can be lengthy and can lead to disparate outcomes.
In the letter to [Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric] Shinseki, lawmakers ask the secretary to “study and implement” new procedures to make easier the process by which service members can seek to have benefits restored — even if they believe their discharge characterization was inappropriate. ...
Benefits that are available to former service members through the Department of Veterans Affairs include certain health care services, compensation for survivors of certain servicemembers and veterans, disability payments for veterans, education benefits and home financing assistance.
Stars and Stripes adds: "Troops with other-than-honorable dismissals can apply for health care related to service-connected injuries, but the department can deny treatment for health issues that develop later in life. They are not eligible for GI Bill benefits, and may be refused veterans home loans. ... Even troops with honorable status have 'homosexual conduct' stamped on their discharge paperwork, which creates privacy headaches when civilian employers ask for evidence of their military experience."
President Barack Obama spoke for about 15 minutes at the White
House LGBT Pride Reception earlier this evening. The President spoke to a group of about 300 attendees, smaller than last year's event, and mostly state/regional and youth leaders, as opposed to national activists and policy makers.
The President also briefly mentioned larger ticket items such as repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, passing the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and the recent action taken on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Obama told the crowd: "Here’s the bottom line: We have never been closer to ending that discriminatory policy.”
"The fact that we have activists here is a reminder that change
never comes—or at least never begins—in Washington," President Obama said. "It
is when ordinary people out of love for a mother or a father, a son or a
daughter, or a husband or a wife, speak out against injustices that
have been accepted for too long."
Video, more photos, the read the transcript and a partial list of invitees AFTER THE JUMP ...
The bill scares centrist Democrats, who don't want to be forced to vote on a hot-button issue popular on the left as they approach November congressional elections in which heavy Democratic losses are expected.
Gay rights groups are pushing for a House vote this month, and the legislation from Frank, who is gay and hired the first openly transgendered aide on Capitol Hill, would broaden the reach of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The 2007 version, which won support from some centrists, prohibited hiring on the grounds of sexual orientation but not gender identity; it passed the House easily, 235-184, with 35 Republican votes.
Backers of the transgender provision are hoping that larger Democratic majorities in Congress and the public support from the Obama administration will lead to passage of the bill, but the sensitivity of the issue threatens to exacerbate an already challenging election year environment for Democrats. Bringing it to the floor in the next several weeks could also buck Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) pledge to save vulnerable members from tough votes following the bruising healthcare debate."
Pelosi and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin promised Democrats no "controversial" votes after health care reform. It seems there's disagreement in our community over whether ENDA and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" are "controversial" votes ...
The reluctance: As always, focuses on transgender provisions and bathrooms ...
"In an effort to build momentum for the current legislation, 202 lawmakers have signed on as co-sponsors to the version that includes transgender protection. But that list does not include dozens of members who supported the 2007 bill, many of them Democrats facing uphill re-election battles. Those Democrats were loath to discuss the transgender issue this week. Several did not respond to queries about their position, while others said they were undecided. 'I don’t have anything to say on that,' replied Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.), who voted for the 2007 version but has not signed on to the current bill. 'I’m still considering all of that,' said Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), another supporter of the legislation in 2007."
Meanwhile: Roll Call reports Barney Frank says the vote will happen by the end of the month ...
"Frank said that he is optimistic about the vote count and that
transgender protections will remain in the bill. 'There’s no
chance of doing it without it,' he said of the transgender protections. Frank
said he’s told wavering Democrats that “'the principle is the same. It’s
discrimination.' He said concessions were made in the drafting of
the language to address moderates’ concerns."
Money quote: "[Rep. Tammy Baldwin] had little sympathy for the complaints of moderate lawmakers
who question the political wisdom of pushing gay rights bills in a
difficult election year. 'Name one issue where you don’t hear
that?' she said. 'They should choose another profession.'"
There could be some serious movement on a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). House Democrats are seriously "considering" taking up a vote on and preparing for what could be a "potentially divisive social debate", according to Roll Call.
Democrats behind the push, led by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of three openly gay Members, are already surveying their ranks to determine support for the measure, with the aim of approving it by the end of May. The House cleared a version of the legislation in 2007 with a wide margin padded by support from 35 Republicans. But that bill did not extend employment protections to transgender people, after proponents determined they couldn’t wrangle majority backing for that approach.
This time, Democratic leaders are committed to pursuing a discrimination ban that includes transgender people, lawmakers and staff said. And they believe that rapidly shifting politics surrounding gay rights, nudged along on the transgender issue by an aggressive lobbying campaign by advocates, will help them win the day. But the push faces resistance from a so-far-unknown number of Democrats, mostly from rural, socially conservative districts. Many of these lawmakers are eager to avoid what they consider a tough vote — pitting a sizable chunk of their constituency against base voters and wealthy donors — in an already challenging re-election environment.
There are 199 co-sponsors for the current version, including six Republicans, which is very close to clearing the 216 hurdle. But ...
One House Republican leadership aide said Democrats are proceeding with the ban, officially the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, at their own political peril. “The fact that the Democrat leadership are about to make 60-plus vulnerable Members vote for transgendered protections shows just how out of touch Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.] is with the reality facing these Members,” this aide said, predicting the provision would prompt the majority to lose the support of Republicans who backed it in the last Congress.
Then there is this piece in CQ, where Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer signals the House is "likely to consider" ENDA and/or "Don't ask, Don't Tell." "Both of these issues are not new issues," Hoyer said. "And I frankly think that they’re going to be resolved, and I think the American public is there as well."
ENDA and DADT repeal enjoy popular public support and a near majority in the House. But yet here we are ...