The Long, Steady March to Full LGBT Equality Continues

Monday, July 25th, 2011

While much of the news recently has been fairly frustrating for progressives, there is at least one area where there has been major progress worth celebrating – the march to full LGBT equality.  Following are just some of the significant steps towards fairness and equality that have occurred over the past few weeks.  As we’ve explained previously, celebrating and rewarding progress are core elements of achieving progressive change, so please “Share” this post and use our letters to the editor page to thank the organizations and elected officials involved in making these victories occur.

DOMA Repeal – President Obama last week announced his support for the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the indefensible Defense of Marriage Act.  The Respect for Marriage Act has been introduced in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and in the House by Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY).

DADT Repeal Certification – On Friday, military leaders and President Obama certified that ending the ban of LGBT Americans serving their country in the military would not jeopardize military readiness.  Such certification was established in legislation passed by the Democratic House and Senate in December 2010 as the final step towards ending the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, which will now be officially gone in 60 days.

New York - Sunday, July 23 was the first day in which same-sex marriages were legally authorized in New York, thanks to legislation that was recently passed with the strong support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

California - Last week, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (“FAIR”) Education Act, which requires that the economic, social, and political contributions of LGBT Californians be included in the school curriculum in that state.

Florida – The Miami-Dade County School District, which is the fourth largest in the nation, last week added sexual orientation and gender identity to their anti-bullying and harassment policy.

Maryland – Supporters of equality suffered a setback last spring when marriage equality legislation that had passed the state Senate was narrowly defeated in the state House of Delegates.  A large progressive coalition, however, is back to get the legislation passed next year, and Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley announced last week that he has made the legislation one of his administration’s handful of top legislative priorities.  If you’d like to support this effort, “like” Equality Maryland’s Facebook page.

Washington – in Washington State, Democratic Congressman and candidate for Governor Jay Inslee publicly announced his support for marriage equality a few days before launching his gubernatorial campaign.  If you’d like to learn more about Inslee and his campaign, here is his campaign Facebook page and website.

Utah – the state Democratic Party elected Utah’s first openly gay major political party leader by choosing Jim Dabakis.  Dabakis is a co-founder of the Utah Pride Center and Equality Utah.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on marriage equality and President Obama, an essay about how immigration can help reinvigorate Detroit, the story of a man recently freed from death row,  a book review about how taxpayer bailouts of the financial sector keep getting bigger, and an analysis of how successful states are in providing educational opportunity to low-income students.

If you have any feedback on these articles, or would like to recommend an article for next weekend’s reading list, please let us know at Winning Progressive’s Facebook page.

Obama and Gay Marriage: Runaway Bride? – An argument that while President Obama should now stand up in support of marriage equality, there were important strategic reasons why he did not do so previously.   Winning Progressive’s letter urging President Obama to publicly support marriage equality is here.   

Immigrants Add Luster to Metro Detroit - an essay by Steve Tobocman in the Detroit News echoing Winning Progressive’s view that increased immigration could be an important tool for reinvigorating Detroit 

The Case of Cory Maye - The account of an African American resident of Mississippi who was sentenced to death row for shooting a white police officer after a large number of police officers mistakenly raided Mr. Maye’s house in the middle of the night.   Mr. Mayes’ death sentence was recently vacated and he is now returning home. 

The Busts Keep Getting Bigger: Why? – a review by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells of the Age of Greed, by Jeff Madrick, which discusses the history of federal taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street, where the collapses keep getting more dire and the bailouts keep getting bigger

Some States Still Leave Low-Income Students Behind; Others Make Surprising Gains - a ProPublica report on how Florida has done a good job of extending educational opportunity to low-income students, while states such as Kansas, Maryland, and Oklahoma have not

WP Comments on Pope John Paul II and on Reagan’s Budget Director’s Talking About the Deficit He Helped Create

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Here are our latest comments on the legacy of Pope John Paul II and rebuking President Reagan’s former budget director’s attempt to blame both parties for our deficit problems.  Help spread these progressive ideas by using the links at our Letters to the Editor Campaign center to write a letter to your local newspaper.

My comment on Maureen Dowd’s NYT column Hold the Halo, about the good and bad of Pope John Paul II in light of his upcoming sainthood.

I share your criticisms of Pope John Paul II for the reasons you mention.  I would just add two good things about the Pope, and one additional bad thing.

The first good thing is that Pope John Paul II publicly opposed the Iraq War before it started, calling it a defeat for humanity that could not be morally or legally justified.  He was right.

The second good thing about the Pope is that he consistently spoke out against the death penalty during his 26 year reign.  As with the Iraq War, he was a rare high profile figure that was willing to take a strong public position on this issue of social justice.

On the bad side, however, Pope John Paul II continued and even escalated the Church’s unjust discrimination against the LGBT community, and publicly scapegoated LGBT people for various social ills.  Such behavior by a purportedly holy man was truly inexcusable.

My comment on former Reagan Administration budget director David Stockman’s NYT op-ed The Bipartisan March to Fiscal Madness, in which Mr. Stockman makes a failed attempt to blame both parties for our country’s fiscal situation.

The thought of Ronald Reagan’s budget director lecturing Democrats on fiscal responsibility is downright laughable.  Given Mr. Stockman’s record in that job, it is not surprising that he gets things mostly wrong in this oped.

First, Mr. Stockman wrongly identifies the most solvent part of government – Social Security – as a major cause of the deficit.  In fact, Social Security has run a surplus for years and will remain solvent until at least 2037.  With minor changes, the program is projected to be solvent for 75 years or more.

Second, Mr. Stockman whistles past the real causes of our deficit – an intentional Republican effort, started under his former boss President Reagan, to create deficits.  The strategy of Republicans over the past 30 years has been clear.  They would cut taxes for the wealthy elite, increase corporate subsidies, and raise military spending, both to pay off their rich donors and to increase deficits.  Why did they want to increase deficits?  Because it was their only hope of making cuts to core government programs that benefit the middle class, working class, and poor politically palatable.

Third, Mr. Stockman engages in typical media false equivalency by seeking to equate Rep. Paul Ryan’s truly unserious and cowardly Path to Poverty proposal with the largely serious proposal put forward by President Obama. Mr. Stockman ignores the fact that Obama’s plan is based on real numbers, rather than Heritage Foundation pipe dreams about the impacts of spending and tax cuts.  He also falsely says that President Obama does nothing to reduce Medicare spending.  In reality, Obama’s health care reform bill from last year already started us on the path of bringing health care costs under control and he has proposed additional steps.  Health care reform and the additional steps are, of course, opposed by Republicans like Rep. Ryan, whose “solution” to rising Medicare costs are to simply try to shift those costs away from government and towards our senior citizens.

Mr. Stockman also overstates the fiscal threat by citing to bond vigilantes that conservatives who oppose efforts to help the economy or reduce the deficit keep raising the alarm about, yet they remain invisible.

Finally, Mr. Stockman criticizes Mr. Obama for not proposing tax increases on the middle class, but ignores the role that larger tax increases on the wealthy could play in trimming the deficit.  In fact, the House Progressive Caucus budget proposal, which includes taxes on the wealthy that are considerably closer to the levels they used to be at, would reduce the deficit more quickly and effectively than either President Obama’s or Rep. Ryan’s plan.  If we are going to be raising taxes on folks, let’s ask the wealthy elite who have made out like bandits under the conservative policies that Mr. Stockman and President Reagan put into place to pay more, rather than hitting even harder the middle and working classes who have suffered under those policies.

Topics to Write About to Your Newspaper

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

A few days ago, Winning Progressive launched a campaign designed to encourage our readers to spread the progressive message to the American public by writing letters to the editors of their local newspapers. The best letter will receive a prize, and all letters that are published will also be posted here at Winning Progressive.

As part of the letter to the editor campaign, Winning Progressive will be regularly posting timely articles or issues that we believe would be good topics to write letters to the editor on.  Below are the first four timely topics that each could form the basis for a good letter to the editor.

Civil Unions in Delaware – Late last week, Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced that he would sign into law legislation recently passed by the Delaware state legislature making Delaware the eight state in the country to recognize same sex civil unions.  If you live in Delaware, write a letter to the editor thanking Gov. Markell and the state legislator for voting in favor of LGBT equality.   Links to Delaware papers are available here.

Require Corporations to Pay Their Fair Share on Tax Day - With tax day happening on Monday, April 18, now is a great time to remind people how large corporations use loopholes and creative accounting to pay little to no taxes despite having billions of dollars in profit.  General Electric is the best known example this year, as they received a $3.2 billion tax benefit from the IRS while making $5.2 billion in profits.  Here are fourteen other examples.

GOP Votes to Abolish Medicare – Last week, all but four Republican members of the House voted for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal which would, among other things, abolish Medicare and replace it with inadequate health insurance vouchers.  Write a letter to the editor reminding people that the GOP is now on record supporting the abolition of Medicare.  If your Congressperson is a Republican, mention him or her by name in your letter – the only GOP House members to vote against the budget proposal were Reps. Ron Paul (Texas), Denny Rehberg (Mont.), Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and David McKinley (W.Va.).

State GOP Officials Attack Environmental Laws - Republican Governors Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Scott in Florida, and Chris Christie in New Jersey, and the Republican state legislature in North Carolina, have launched significant attacks on state environmental laws, cutting budgets for environmental agencies and working to open protected natural areas up to more development.   If you live in one of those states, write a letter to the editor calling on your elected officials to stand up for the environment and reject efforts to undermine state environmental protections.  Here are links to newspapers in Florida, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina.

This Valentine’s Day, Help Continue Progress on LGBT Equality

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Today, of course, is Valentine’s Day – a day when many Americans celebrate love, romance, and intimate relationships.  In the wake of their electoral victories last November, however, many Republicans have apparently missed the message and, instead, are working to continue to deny the right of LGBT Americans to love whoever they choose.  The good news is that, as the above pro-marriage equality video from George W. Bush’s daughter shows, it is an effort that conservatives are increasingly losing and progressives are steadily winning.

The conservative push back on LGBT equality can be seen in the following places, where Republicans are working to deny or repeal marriage equality:

* Indiana – a constitutional amendment banning both gay marriage and civil unions is pending in the state legislature

* Iowa – conservatives unseated three state Supreme Court justices who legalized gay marriage in 2009, and are now pushing legislation to ban gay marriage in the state

* North Carolina – legislation to amend state constitution to ban gay marriage

* New Hampshire – conservatives have proposed legislation to overturn 2009 legislation that legalized gay marriage in the state

* New Mexico – four legislative proposals seek to define marriage as between one man and one woman

* Washington D.C. – Republicans in Congress are promising to propose legislation ending Washington D.C.’s legalization of gay marriage

* Wyoming - legislation has been introduced to amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage and the recognition of out-of-state gay marriages

The good news this Valentine’s Day is, however, that conservatives are losing their battle against equality for LGBT Americans.  For example:

* Illinois recently became the sixth state to authorize same-sex civil unions legislation – the other five being California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and New Jersey.

* Five other states – Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa – and Washington D.C., allow for same-sex marriage.

* Marriage equality legislation is pending in a number of states, including Rhode Island and Hawaii

* Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed, finally allowing LGBT Americans to openly serve their country in the military

* New Medicare and Medicaid regulations require equal hospital visitation rights for LGBT Americans

And, perhaps most tellingly, polls show that the trend is in favor of equality, especially among Americans under age 35 who will make a larger and larger proportion of the voting electorate.   The problems that this demographic split on gay equality poses for conservatives is perhaps best seen in the video from the junior Barbara Bush above.   Keep in mind that Barbara Bush is the daughter of George W. Bush, who used opposition to gay marriage to help win the 2004 Presidential election.  Now, his own daughter is publicly coming out in favor of marriage equality.

The battle for LGBT equality is, of course, far from over and it will require that we all continue to fight to promote equality and to stop Republican efforts to roll back progress.  Help us in this fight by calling your state legislator and writing a letter to your local newspaper editor in support of LGBT equality.  If you live in one of the states mentioned above with pro- or anti-marriage equality legislation pending, mention that in your call and letter.

You can find your state legislator’s contact information here.

Here are links for submitting letters to the editor for national papers, and to newspapers in Colorado, Connecticut, DelawareIllinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Finally, if you have any comments or feedback, let us know at the Winning Progressive Facebook page.

Celebrating Progressive Victories

Friday, February 4th, 2011

One thing that the progressive movement does not do very well is to celebrate its victories.  Because progressive change typically comes in a series of steps, rather than all at once, we often get so focused on taking the next step that we do not take time to reflect on good things as we achieve them.  By not celebrating our victories, we often create the false impression that progressives are losing, which can discourage our supporters, make undecided voters less likely to support us, and make elected officials less likely to fight for our causes.

In an effort to avoid such impacts and help spread the word that progressives have won and continue to win numerous significant victories that have helped advance the causes of fairness, justice, and equality in America and the world, we like to highlight progressive victories here at Winning Progressive.  This past week there were at least four such victories worth celebrating:

* Defeating Repeal of Health Care Reform – The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 51 to 47 to reject a Republicans legislative effort to repeal health care reform.  Repeal would have allowed the health insurance industry to return to abusive practices such as pre-existing condition exclusions and retroactive policy cancellations,  foreclose the expansion of affordable coverage to 32 million more Americans, increase the deficit, and return us to a broken health insurance system.  By turning back repeal, Senate Democrats have allowed the American people to continue to enjoy the significant benefits of health care reform.  If you have a Democratic Senator, call him or her and thank them for voting against repeal.

* Signing the New START Treaty – Also on Wednesday, President Obama signed the New START Treaty, which reduces deployed nuclear weapons by 1/3 and ensures that we are able to continue nuclear weapons inspections in Russia in order to verify reductions and help keep nuclear materials out of the hands of rogue nations or terrorists.  New START was ratified in the Senate in December only after Democrats overcame significant Republican obstructionism.

* Civil Unions Authorized in Illinois - Earlier this week, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that made Illinois the sixth state to allow same-sex civil unions (five others allow for same-sex marriage).  If you live in Illinois, contact Governor Pat Quinn and the members of the Illinois House and Senate who got the civil unions legislation enacted.

* Republicans Give Up on “Forcible Rape” Provision – Earlier this week, Republicans (and one Democratic House member) proposed to redefine the rape exception to the ban on federal abortion coverage to extend to only “forcible rape.”   Such a redefinition would mean that victims of statutory rape or incest would be foreclosed from receiving federal aid for getting an abortion.  After a large pushback from Democrats and progressives, however, Republicans backed down on Thursday and returned to the broader rape exclusion under current law.

If you know of other progressive victories at the federal, state, or local levels that we should be celebrating, e-mail us to let us know.