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Rep. Mark Takano promises to ‘amplify the voices’ of justice seekers

Equality means fighting for the rights of others, too

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Rep. Mark Takano, honored by Equality California on May 12, 2018 in San Fransisco. (Photo by Chris Schmitt Photography)

(Editor’s note: On the eve of the week the U.S. Supreme court is expected to rule on the Masterpiece Cakeshop marriage equality vs ‘religious liberty’ case and the constitutionality of President Trump’s Muslim Ban, out Rep. Mark Takano, a Democrat from Riverside County, promised to stand up and speak out for all those facing discrimination. Here’s an excerpt from his remarks accepting the Amplify Equality Award from Equality California in San Francisco Saturday night, May 12. – Karen Ocamb)

I’m proud to accept the Amplify Equality Award tonight. Though in truth, I feel that this is an award that should be presented to all of you. Because it is organizations like Equality California that have helped make LGBTQ voices heard on issues of civil rights and equality that go beyond our own community.

I am, of course, the first openly gay person to be elected to Congress from California. And, as I like to remind my friends from San Francisco, I was elected from the Inland Empire — from Riverside County.

When I ran for Congress in 2012, I told the voters of my district that the person who represents Riverside in the House must be one of the strongest advocates for the environment. Because having lived in the IE [Inland Empire] during the years when dirty air posed significant health risks, we know why clean air is important.

I feel the same way about the LGBTQ community and broader civil rights issues.

Ten years ago today, a same-sex couple could not marry in California, or in 48 other states. There were only two openly LGBT members of Congress. And LGBTQ patriots could not serve in our armed forces.

Today, marriage is a right throughout America. Seven openly LGBTQ Americans serve in Congress. And whether President Trump likes it or not, gay, lesbian, bisexual and, yes, transgender Americans proudly wear the uniform of our country.

LGBTQ people have seen just how quickly progress can come in America. But we also know that this progress can be hard, and sometimes fleeting. As people who have suffered persecution and discrimination, we understand that a true dedication to equality means fighting for the rights of other communities just as hard as we fight for our own.

That is why I am just as outspoken in defense of DREAMers as I am the rights of LGBTQ Americans. That is why I will fight just as hard against the President’s Muslim Ban as I will in favor of allowing transgender Americans to continue serving in the military.

Because a nation where people who may not share our religion or nationality can lose their rights is a nation where we can lose ours.

My family learned this lesson the hard way in World War II, when xenophobia and racism forced thousands of Americans of Japanese descent, including my parents and grandparents, into internment camps. Some of our veterans have learned this lesson more recently when, after risking their lives for the United States, they have been deported from this country simply because they weren’t born here.

LGBTQ Americans have seen firsthand the harm that discrimination can do. Too many in our community still face deep challenges, and please know that my out Congressional colleagues and I will never stop fighting for a comprehensive LGBTQ civil rights bill. The Equality Act, sponsored by my friend David Cicilline of Rhode Island, is currently being blocked by the Republican majority in Congress. But with your help, the next House of Representatives will pass a bill that permanently enshrines our rights into law.

We can fight to pass the Equality Act and still make our voices heard when our friends and neighbors are attacked for who they are, where they are from, or how they pray.

Each of us is so fortunate to be in this room tonight. I am only here because my family overcame their internment, and the loss of wealth and the loss of dignity that came from it, and still believed in this nation enough to rebuild and persevere. We are only here because so many LGBTQ leaders, who are no longer with us, took those first brave steps down the path to equality.

And so I accept this award not as a recognition of anything that I have achieved, but as a challenge that I will strive to meet. A challenge to use my position to amplify the voices of those calling out for justice. A challenge to take the perseverance and bravery of the leaders who came before me and amplify it out to everyone still struggling for the rights and respect we all deserve.

To find out more about Rep. Mark Takano, visit his congressional website.

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On 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade- is it the last? Biden & others weigh in

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion rights since the Roe v. Wade

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Abortion opponents gathered Friday for the annual March for Life March and Rally (Screenshot via WUSA CBS9)

WASHINGTON – As thousands gathered on the National Mall in D.C. Friday for the annual anti-abortion ‘March for Life March and Rally 2022,’ there were signs among the speakers and the participants gathered of a renewed sense of optimism that with a pending Supreme Court case, this year maybe the last annual gathering as the court looks poised to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“We are hoping and praying that this year, 2022, will bring a historic change for life,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said at the event, The Associated Press reported.

A large portion of the crowd during the March for Life rally on Friday was made up of young people, with some holding signs saying they were the “pro-life generation.”

The whole country is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on one of the most serious challenges to abortion protections that the institution heard since the Roe v. Wade decision 49 years ago, which gave women the constitutional right to abortion.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments this past December, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving a Mississippi law that bans nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, passed in 2018 but has been blocked by two lower federal courts, allows abortion after 15 weeks “only in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality” and has no exception for rape or incest. If doctors perform abortions outside the parameters of the law, they will have their medical licenses suspended or revoked and may be subject to additional penalties and fines.

The lack of access is felt most heavily by marginalized people, says Kari White, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin and researcher with the Mississippi Reproductive Health Access Project. She was the lead author of a study published last month in the journal Contraception that found that Mississippians were more likely to wait longer for an abortion if they were low-income or Black, NPR reported.

In an analysis published by SCOTUS blogAmy Howe noted;

If the justices overturn Roe and Casey, the Guttmacher Institute estimates that 26 states (including Mississippi) will implement complete bans on abortion. Although the stakes in the case are thus obviously high, Mississippi takes pains to assure the justices that overruling Roe and Casey would not have ripple effects beyond abortion rights. It distinguishes abortion from other constitutionalized privacy interests, such as interracial marriage and same-sex marriage, saying that those interests – unlike abortion – do not involve the “purposeful termination of a potential life.”

In a statement to the Los Angeles Blade after the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last December had concluded, Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) warned;

“[Today’s] arguments should be a wakeup call for LGBTQ people. We must face the reality of a Supreme Court packed by one of the most reactionary presidents of our time, and we must get serious about passing a federal law that protects basic rights and liberties for our community. If you care about LGBTQ equality, it is essential as never before to do everything within your power to elect fair-minded local, state, and federal officials and to engage in real dialogue with those who do not yet fully understand or support LGBTQ people. We do not have the luxury of disengagement or passivity. If you are not actively involved in supporting a federal civil rights law for LGBTQ people, you are part of the problem.”

Minter further cautioned;

“While restrictions on abortion primarily harm women, they also compound the challenges that trans men and nonbinary people already face in accessing gynecological and reproductive health care. Being a trans man or a nonbinary individual who needs an abortion is often a nightmare even in jurisdictions that support reproductive freedom. In places like Texas, which are making abortions inaccessible to anyone, it is terrifying,”

“My heart goes out to the trans and nonbinary people who are living in fear, praying they never need this care, and that if they do, they can find a way out of the state. And for those who know they can’t afford to travel or pay for out-of-state care, there is no hope,” he added.

Graphic via NBC News

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released a joint statement Saturday commemorating the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade;

The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.

In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.

The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.

We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.

At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.

A recent poll conducted by CNN found that a large majority of Americans — almost 70 percent — said that they oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. Thirty percent of respondents said that they supported the move. 

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Biden delivered results for LGBTQ+ & HIV communities in 1st year, but…

Significant work remains to be done, particularly in areas affecting some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community

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President Joe Biden (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – Lambda Legal released a new comprehensive report today that assesses the Biden-Harris administration’s first year with respect to its impact on the LGBTQ+ community and everyone living with HIV.

While the report identifies significant achievements, such as quickly rescinding the transgender military ban and correctly interpreting federal nondiscrimination laws as protecting LGBTQ+ people, much more work is needed, as many promises remain unfulfilled one year into the Biden presidency.

“When President Biden took office, he faced a tall task to reverse four years of damage done by the Trump administration, which actively took aim at the LGBTQ+ community, as it did with respect to Black, brown, immigrant, and other communities, whenever it could,” said Sharon McGowan, chief strategy officer and legal director of Lambda Legal. “Our analysis shows that while the Biden administration has made progress putting our country back on the right track, we are nowhere close to where we need to be. They should use this report, and the unfulfilled priorities we have identified in it, as a guidepost for the direction our country should be headed over the coming months.”

“President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris promised to use their office to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed,” said Kristine Kippins, deputy legal director for policy at Lambda Legal. “While many important steps have been taken, our assessment after year one is that this administration’s homework must be rated as “incomplete.” Particularly with LGBTQ+ people, especially Black transgender women and transgender youth, facing increased harassment, violence, and discrimination across our country, we hope the Biden-Harris administration will act with the urgency that the situation demands, and take bold action to tackle the immense challenges we face to build a more perfect union.”

The one-year report released by Lambda Legal today follows up on 10 key asks the organization made to the administration as it prepared to take office. It finds that:

  • The Biden administration took decisive action on a number of issues of tremendous importance to the LGBTQ+ community, including clarification of the scope of sex discrimination protections in federal law and the renunciation of the ban on open service by transgender people currently in the military, and those wishing to serve. The significance of these actions cannot be overstated.
     
  • And yet, significant work remains to be done, particularly in areas affecting some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, the Biden administration must take more decisive action to ensure that all programs funded by federal dollars are operated in a nondiscriminatory manner even when services are provided by third parties, including religiously affiliated entities. And the federal government must end discrimination in its own programs and policies, ranging from barriers to transition-related health care in federally-run health care programs to its outdated and discriminatory blood donation policy, which limits the ability of many gay, bisexual, and transgender people to donate.
     
  • With respect to restoring the integrity of our federal judiciary, the Biden administration still has a long way to go in addressing the gross underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ people on the federal bench. The administration must nominate more openly LGBTQ+ people, and particularly LGBT people of color, for judicial vacancies, focusing on the five circuits—D.C., First, Fourth, Eighth, and Tenth—that do not have a single openly LGBTQ+ judge on the bench of either the circuit court or the district courts in its jurisdiction. The administration must also nominate the country’s first transgender or nonbinary judge and the first openly bisexual judge in order to ensure the judiciary reflects the society it serves.

A copy of the full report released by Lambda Legal today can be downloaded by clicking here.

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Manchin & Sinema join GOP defeating passage of voting rights legislation

The 52-48 vote defeating changing Senate rules was followed by sustained applause from the Republican side of the Senate chamber

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Arizona Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema & West Virginia Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin (Screenshot via CNN)

WASHINGTON – On the eve of the anniversary of his first year in office, President Joe Biden suffered a major set-back Wednesday as Senate Republicans joined by conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin along with fellow Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, blocked efforts by their party to change filibuster rules in order to pass critical voting rights legislation.

The 52-48 vote defeating changing Senate rules was followed by sustained applause from the Republican side of the Senate chamber. The vote was preceded by an effort to break a GOP filibuster on voting legislation that combines key provisions of two bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

That effort failed by a vote of 49-51. New York Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer changed his vote to “no” before the vote was gaveled so that he can offer a motion to reconsider the vote.

In a show of support for voting rights and changing Senate rules, House members in the Congressional Black Caucus marched to the Senate, warning that no matter what happens, they won’t stop fighting to pass it, CNN reported.

“We want the Senate to act today in a favorable way, but if they don’t, we ain’t giving up. I am too young to give up,” Rep. Jim Clyburn, (D-SC) the No. 3 Democrat in the House, told CNN.

In separate statements released after the vote by the White House, President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris weighed in.

“At the core of our democracy is a basic principle: the right to vote, and to have that vote counted. That principle was assaulted one year ago, when a violent mob attempted a coup seeking to overturn the will of the people. And today, in state after state, Republican state legislatures are engaged in an unprecedented effort to suppress the sacred right to vote and subvert the American bedrock of free and fair elections,” Biden said.
 
“In the face of those threats, I am profoundly disappointed that the United States Senate has failed to stand up for our democracy. I am disappointed — but I am not deterred,” he added.
 
“My Administration will never stop fighting to ensure that the heart and soul of our democracy — the right to vote — is protected at all costs. We will continue to work with allies to advance necessary legislation to protect the right to vote. And to push for Senate procedural changes that will protect the fundamental right to vote.” the president stressed.
 
“As dangerous new Republican laws plainly designed to suppress and subvert voting rights proliferate in states across the country, we will explore every measure and use every tool at our disposal to stand up for democracy. The Vice President will continue to lead this effort, as she has for the past year,” the statement concluded.

In her statement, Vice President Kamala Harris speaking about the Senate Vote said;

“Every member of the United States Senate—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents—takes an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution. It is their duty to safeguard our democracy and secure the freedom to vote. Yet today, Senators voted to preserve an arcane Senate procedure rather than secure that fundamental freedom. The American people will not forget this moment. Neither will history.  

“Across our nation, anti-voter laws could make it more difficult for as many as 55 million Americans to vote, and will be felt by every American.

“Our Administration will continue to fight to pass federal legislation to secure the right to vote. We will not stop fighting against the anti-voter legislation that Republican legislatures continue to push at the state level—and to champion and support state and local elected officials who work to enact pro-voter legislation. We will work to ensure Americans everywhere can register to vote, cast their vote, and have their vote counted in a free and fair election.  

Generations of Americans have fought to strengthen and expand the freedom to vote. While victory was never assured and almost always preceded by setback, ultimately, We the People have prevailed. We will again.”

Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen released a statement saying;

“This is a sad and tragic day for America. As a result of lock-step opposition to basic measures to safeguard our democracy and the refusal of Sens. Sinema and Manchin to agree to rules reform to win passage of legislation that they support, America now faces a frightening future.

“Republicans across the country are engaged in a concerted effort to make it harder for people of color to vote. Extreme partisan and racial gerrymandering is stripping voters of meaningful influence. And proto-fascist forces motivated by Trump’s Big Lie are actively organizing to subvert elections in 2022 and 2024 – aiming to override actual results with predetermined outcomes.

“Though the Senate’s failure to pass Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act makes the challenge of protecting our democracy exponentially greater, we cannot – and will not — accept this as our fate.”

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, released the following statement on voting rights:

“The right of candidates to compete in fair and democratic election processes is fundamental to our mission to increase the number of LGBTQ elected officials and ensure they reflect the diversity of those they serve. Voter suppression efforts deny voters the equal opportunity to elect their representatives and are a direct challenge to Victory Fund’s efforts to advance equality through representation. These laws disproportionately impact LGBTQ people of color and voters in urban areas where LGBTQ people are concentrated. The increasingly strict voter ID laws create unnecessary and sometimes insurmountable obstacles for transgender and nonbinary people attempting to access the ballot box.

“Our Victory Fund Campaign Board – made up of more than 150 political leaders and advocates from across the country – votes to determine who Victory Fund endorses. Senator Kyrsten Sinema is not currently endorsed and if she runs for reelection, her record and actions on the advancement of legislation impacting the equality of LGBTQ people will be a primary consideration for whether she receives our endorsement. That board vote would take place in 2024.”

 Kierra Johnson, Executive Director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund said in a statement:

“The failure to enact the Freedom to Vote, John R. Lewis Act is a profound blow to our Democracy. The inability to ensure voting rights for Black and Brown people and other vulnerable groups like LGBTQ people lays at the feet of those who  voted “nay.” These are the votes of political extremists, whose fear of losing power has become a justification for carving out LGBTQ+ folks, People of Color, women, poor people and other already marginalized groups from the political process.

Senators who voted for the right of all to participate in our Democratic process have our appreciation. To the rest – shame on you. Nineteen states have passed 34 laws that undermine voting rights, rights that are the threshold of our democratic values and civic responsibility – the very heartbeat of our Democracy. We pledge to do all in our power to Queer the Vote in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond, and we will continue to advocate to restore voting rights to all our nation’s people.”

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