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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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Religious Extremism/Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism

Right-wing extremist provocateur threatens to ‘hunt’ LGBT supporters

He has a history of right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients

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Ethan Schmidt (Screenshot/Twitter)

PHOENIX – A twenty-four year old right-wing extremist based in the metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona area, Ethan Schmidt, posted a short video of himself accompanied by Kyle Clifton who describes himself as “authoritarian Christian nationalist,” driving in an undisclosed area announcing that he and Clifton will be “hunting ‘LGBT supporters” and people in area Target retail stores.

The video captured by Twitter account Patriot Takes, which describes itself as a group of Dedicated researchers monitoring and exposing right-wing extremism and other threats to democracy, first posted the video clip Saturday.

Schmidt has a history of making right-wing extremist short videos including a harassment campaign against an Arizona wig shop that serves cancer patients.

Sunny’s Hair and Wigs, specialize in making wigs for women who have lost hair while getting treated for cancer and the store had implemented coronavirus pandemic protections including strict mask guidelines to ensure safety of their clients who are particularly vulnerable to infection.

Lisa Memberr, the owner of the shop had explained to local media outlets: “My customer base is very diverse,” and she added, “Not only do I have Caucasians, I have Afro-Americans, I have Asians, I have Latin Americans.”

Schmidt, who has ban banned by nearly all social media platforms including Twitter for spreading false and misleading COVID-19 pandemic information had been visiting numerous retail stores in the Phoenix area including Sunny’s Hair and Wigs targeting those businesses that still require customers to wear mask. He invariably creates videos of his encounters which he uploads to right-wing social media and web sites that he hasn’t been banned from.

In addition to his anti-mask campaign he has made videos with extremist conservative lawmakers including one with Arizona U.S. Republican Representative Paul Gosar telling antivaxxers “to stay the course.”

He also filmed a short with Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers who has established herself firmly as an anti-vax, anti-LGBTQ, right wing extremist.

Clifton is a leader of the America First Union, an openly white nationalist, antisemitic, “conservative youth” organization. He also promotes former President Donald Trump’s big lie about the 2020 Presidential election being stolen by Democrats and President Joe Biden. Clifton also participated in the Arizona audit of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County, which state Sen. Rogers, had raised the visibility of her own political profile by insisting that Arizona’s vote was stolen.

Last Fall Schmidt posed with Trump endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake as he burned a LGBTQ+ Pride flag.

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GOP nominee for Pennsylvania governor, QAnon friendly & anti-LGBTQ+

“Only biological females can play on biological females’ teams & you can only use the bathroom that your biology & anatomy says”

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Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (Screenshot/NBC News)

GETTYSBURG, Pa. – Republican leadership in the Keystone State are expressing quiet alarm over the emergence of radical-right state senator who secured his place as the party’s nominee in the race against Democratic nominee for governor, Josh Shapiro, who is himself currently serving as the Commonwealth’s attorney general.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, who represents Cumberland, Adams, Franklin and York counties in the south-central Pennsylvanian area bordering Maryland, was not seen as a truly viable candidate in the primary race to be the party standard-bearer until he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race has serious implications for the outcome of the 2024 presidential election cycle as well. The Commonwealth is a strategic swing state and the occupant of the governor’s chair in Harrisburg will lend considerable influence to a final vote count.

Mastriano is a polarising figure within the state’s Republican party. The retired U.S. Army colonel has campaigned at political events that included QAnon adherents, he espoused a political agenda that embraced Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election, rejected measures taken to protect Pennsylvanians including masks in the coronavirus pandemic, holding an anti-vaccine “Medical Freedom Rally” rally on the state Capitol steps days after declaring his candidacy for the GOP governor’s primary race, and also mixing in messaging of Christian nationalism.

He also supports expanding gun rights in Pennsylvania and in the Senate sponsored a bill to ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected.

NBC News noted that Mastriano pledged in his election night address that on the first day of his administration he would crack down on “critical race theory,” a catchall term Republicans have used to target school equity programs and new ways of teaching about race, transgender rights and any remaining Covid vaccine requirements.

“CRT is over,” Mastriano declared. “Only biological females can play on biological females’ teams,” he added, and “you can only use the bathroom that your biology and anatomy says.”

His anti-LGBTQ+ views have long been part of his personal portfolio. The Washington Post reported that twenty-one years ago while attending the Air Force’s Air Command and Staff College in 2001, then Major Mastriano wrote his master’s thesis on a hypothetical “left-wing ‘Hitlerian putsch'” that was caused by “the depredations of the country’s morally debauched civilian leaders.” Among those “depredations,” in his words, was the “insertion of homosexuality into the military.”

As the Post reported, his paper shows “disgust for anyone who doesn’t hold his view that homosexuality is a form of ‘aberrant sexual conduct.'”

The paper is posted on an official Defense Department website and lists Mastriano as the author at a time when he said he received a master’s degree from the school.

This is not the only instance of Mastriano professing anti-LGBTQ beliefs. 

In 2018, he stated his belief that LGBTQ couples should not be allowed to adopt a child. During an interview with 103.7FM, when asked “should LGBTQ couples, i.e. two moms or two dads, be allowed to adopt?” Mastriano answered, “No.” [This takes place at the 16:00 mark.]

NBC News interviewed David La Torre, a Republican and former adviser to fellow gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman.

“As far as what a Pennsylvania government would look like with Mastriano in charge, quite frankly, it’s just not something I’m ready to think about at this point,” La Torre said, adding that while there are many unknowns, the dynamic between Mastriano and the state Legislature, currently controlled by Republicans, would be one to watch. 

“All I know is this — he will govern as governor like he campaigned,” he said. “He would govern with a sledgehammer and expect Republicans to fall in line. And it would be one of the more fascinating tugs of war we’ve seen in Harrisburg.”

Dave Ball, chairman of the Washington County GOP, told NBC News that Mastriano’s victory was “a shame” for the party, the product of “a phenomenon that I truly don’t understand.” But any misgivings won’t stop Ball from working toward the ultimate goal: taking back the governor’s mansion, saying it’s a must-win race. (The two-term incumbent, Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is term-limited.)

As if telegraphing the battles to come should he take the governor’s chair, Politico reported: “Our biggest problem,” said Mastriano on Steve Bannon’s “War Room: Pandemic” podcast on Tuesday, “is going to be these feckless RINO-type Republicans here that will not allow us to have a fighter as governor. But we’re going to beat them and they’re going to lose power, and they’re going to be put to shame.”

Mastriano Lists Agenda As Governor During Pennsylvania GOP Nominee Victory Speech:

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Right-wing SF archbishop bars Pelosi from receiving Holy Communion

“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin”

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U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Official White House Photo)

SAN FRANCISCO – In a letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who represents a part of the city of San Francisco in her role as a Democratic Representative, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said Friday that she will not be admitted to receive Communion in response to her support of women’s reproductive rights and legal abortion.

Cordileone warned her that she should not present herself for Holy Communion at Mass adding that if she did priests will not distribute communion to her.

The actions by the archbishop underscores the rising tensions in a decades-long tension between the Roman Catholic Church and progressive Democratic politicians on abortion.

“A Catholic legislator who supports procured abortion, after knowing the teaching of the Church, commits a manifestly grave sin which is a cause of most serious scandal to others.  Therefore, universal Church law provides that such persons ‘are not to be admitted to Holy Communion,'” Cordileone wrote.

The archbishop noted that The Catechism of the Catholic Church is unambiguous on the question of abortion, both in procuring one and assisting in the practice: “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion,” the catechism says. “This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.”

“Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law,” it says, before calling abortion and infanticide “abominable crimes.”

It also declares that “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life.”

Cordileone wrote in the letter that he had written to Pelosi last month on April 7, informing her that “should you not publicly repudiate your advocacy for abortion ‘rights’ or else refrain from referring to your Catholic faith in public and receiving Holy Communion, I would have no choice but to make a declaration, in keeping with canon 915, that you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” According to the archbishop she has not done so.

“Therefore, in light of my responsibility as the Archbishop of San Francisco to be ‘concerned for all the Christian faithful entrusted to [my] care” (Code of Canon Law, can. 383, §1), by means of this communication I am hereby notifying you that you are not to present yourself for Holy Communion and, should you do so, you are not to be admitted to Holy Communion, until such time as you publicly repudiate your advocacy for the legitimacy of abortion and confess and receive absolution of this grave sin in the sacrament of Penance.” he said.

The archbishop then doubled down on his stance in a tweet issued Friday afternoon.

His actions were lauded by another right-wing conservative prelate archbishop James Conley on Twitter:

Cordileone’s actions comes nearly a year after he and Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego became embroiled in a debate over excluding from Communion politicians who support abortion rights like Pelosi and President Joe Biden, also a Catholic.

Last September, CNN reported that Pope Francis said bishops debating whether to deny communion to public figures who support abortion rights, such as President Joe Biden, should make their decisions from a “pastoral” viewpoint and not a political one.

“The problem is not theological, it’s pastoral,” Francis told reporters while traveling from Slovakia to Rome last Fall. “How we bishops deal with this principle. We must be pastors, also with those who are excommunicated. Like God with passion and tenderness. The Bible says so.”

“The pastor knows what to do. In every moment that he leaves the church’s pastoral path he immediately becomes a politician,” Francis said.

The issue drew new attention in June when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proceeded with a plan that could deny communion to such public figures, setting up a potential public rebuke of the President and conversely Speaker Pelosi.

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) issued a statement condeming Cordileone’s decision to deny the House Speaker communion because she supports abortion access:

“After supporting Prop 8 and refusing to get vaccinated, our right wing Archbishop is now attacking one of the most effective leaders in the history of our country, because she supports reproductive health and safe access to abortion. The Archbishop’s refusal to give communion to Speaker Pelosi is shameful. He is deeply out of step with San Francisco and should be removed,” Wiener said.

In addition to his stance on women’s reproductive healthcare choices, Cordileone is opposed to LGBTQ+ equality and same-sex marriage. In a March 2013 interview with USA Today, the archbishop responded to questions posed on same-sex marraige:

Q: What is the greatest threat posed by allowing gays and lesbians to marry?

A:The better question is: What is the great good in protecting the public understanding that to make a marriage you need a husband and a wife?

I can illustrate my point with a personal example. When I was Bishop of Oakland, I lived at a residence at the Cathedral, overlooking Lake Merritt. It’s very beautiful. But across the lake, as the streets go from 1st Avenue to the city limits at 100th Avenue, those 100 blocks consist entirely of inner city neighborhoods plagued by fatherlessness and all the suffering it produces: youth violence, poverty, drugs, crime, gangs, school dropouts, and incredibly high murder rates. Walk those blocks and you can see with your own eyes: A society that is careless about getting fathers and mothers together to raise their children in one loving family is causing enormous heartache.

To legalize marriage between two people of the same sex would enshrine in the law the principle that mothers and fathers are interchangeable or irrelevant, and that marriage is essentially an institution about adults, not children; marriage would mean nothing more than giving adults recognition and benefits in their most significant relationship.

How can we do this to our children?

Q: If the Supreme Court opens the floodgates to gay marriage in California (or beyond), what will be the result?

A: If the Supreme Court overturns Prop 8, this will not go down in history as the Loving v. Virginia but as the Roe v. Wade decision of our generation.

No matter what the Supreme Court rules, this debate is not over. Marriage is too important and the issues raised by treating same-gender unions as marriages are too fundamental to just go away. Just as Roe v. Wade did not end the conversation about abortion, so a ruling that tries to import same-sex marriage into our Constitution is not going to end the marriage debate, but intensify it.

Q: You have spoken of gay marriage as a “natural impossibility.” But in terms of procreation, how does it differ from opposite-sex couples who are elderly or infertile?

A: Our bodies have meaning. The conjugal union of a man and a woman is not a factory to produce babies; marriage seeks to create a total community of love, a “one flesh” union of mind, heart and body that includes a willingness to care for any children their bodily union makes together.

Two men and two women can certainly have a close loving committed emotional relationship, but they can never ever join as one flesh in the unique way a husband and wife do.

Infertility is, as you point out, part of the natural life cycle of marriage (people age!), as well as a challenge and disappointment some husbands and wives have to go through. People who have been married for 50 years are no less married because they can no longer have children.

Adoption can be a wonderful happy ending for children who lack even one parent able or willing to care for them. But notice, when a man and woman cannot have children together, that’s an accident of circumstances, the exception to the rule. When a husband and wife adopt, they are mirroring the pattern set in nature itself. …

Treating same-sex relationships as marriage is the final severing by government of the natural link between marriage and the great task of bringing together male and female to make and raise the next generation together in love.

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