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Group of bipartisan Senators reach agreement on gun reform legislation

Sunday’s agreement comes after two weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans

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WASHINGTON – A group of 20 senators from both parties led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) announced Sunday that they were able to reach an agreement on framing legislation that would for the first time in 25 years put forward measures to curb the plague of gun violence in the U.S..

“Today, we are announcing a commonsense, bipartisan proposal to protect America’s children, keep our schools safe and reduce the threat of violence across our country,” the Senators said in a joint statement released shortly before noon Eastern on Sunday.  

“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” they said.  

The White House reacted favorably with the president urging that a bill reach his desk as soon as practical.

“I want to thank Senator Chris Murphy and the members of his bipartisan group—especially Senators Cornyn, Sinema, and Tillis—for their tireless work to produce this proposal. Obviously, it does not do everything that I think is needed, but it reflects important steps in the right direction, and would be the most significant gun safety legislation to pass Congress in decades.,” President Biden said. “With bipartisan support, there are no excuses for delay, and no reason why it should not quickly move through the Senate and the House. Each day that passes, more children are killed in this country: the sooner it comes to my desk, the sooner I can sign it, and the sooner we can use these measures to save lives.”

Sunday’s agreement comes after two weeks of intense bipartisan negotiations between the Democrats and Republicans that were led by centrist Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) along with the efforts by Murphy and Cornyn.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.) who earlier in the week threatened to bring gun-control legislation to the Senate floor for a vote, whether or not it had Republican support told reporters praising the agreed upon framework as “a good first step to ending the persistent inaction to the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our country and terrorized our children for far too long,” he said.  He added that he intended “to put this bill on the floor as soon as possible” once the text of the agreement is finalized.

The Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a staunch Second Amendment defender while not promising a yes vote on the proposed legislation told reporters;

“I am glad Sens. Cornyn and Murphy are continuing to make headway in their discussions. I appreciate their hard work on this important issue,” he said.  He noted that the framework did “show the value of dialogue and cooperation.” 

“I continue to hope their discussions yield a bipartisan product that makes significant headway on key issues like mental health and school safety, respects the Second Amendment, earns broad support in the Senate, and makes a difference for our country,” McConnell said. 

While not banning assault weapons or raising the age to purchase them from 18 to 21, framework does call for including domestic violence restraining orders in the national instant criminal background check system, clarifying the definition of a federally licensed firearm dealer to include more people who sell a high volume of firearms, and creating new penalties for people who illegally purchase and traffic firearms.

An important distinction for including domestic violence is that the language includes romantic partners and not just spouses.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the agreement “a step forward” but vowed to continue fighting for a more aggressive gun control measures that passed the House this week.

“As we move forward on this bipartisan framework, we are continuing to fight for more life-saving measures: including universal background checks, banning high-capacity magazines and raising the age to buy assault weapons, which must also become law,” she said.

Gun control advocates are spilt on the legislative agreement with most hailing this as important step.

“This framework is a 30-year breakthrough in the making. We applaud this historic step forward for gun violence prevention — one born out of the recognition that this nation needs change and action to save American lives from preventable gun violence. This is a historic, new beginning that breaks the stranglehold of the gun industry,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady, one of the nation’s oldest and boldest gun violence prevention organizations founded by former Reagan White House Press Secretary and his wife Sarah after the assassination attempt on President Reagan that left Brady grievously wounded.

Senators Strike Bipartisan Gun Deal:

  

Gun Safety Activists’ Mixed Reaction To Proposed Gun Deal:

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Congress

U.S. Senate to consider same-sex marriage bill after August recess

Out U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), has been credited with taking the lead on the bill, She said the vote likely delayed till September

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U.S. Senate Chambers (Photo Credit: U.S. Senate)

WASHINGTON – A vote in the U.S. Senate on legislation to codify same-sex marriage, following a surprise bipartisan approval in the U.S. House, now appears on track for consideration in September after lawmakers return from summer recess.

Questions emerged on when the Senate would take up the Respect for Marriage Act, which was advanced amid fears the U.S. Supreme Court would act to rescind same-sex marriage next after the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, after the House voted 267-157 in favor of the bill. Among the “yes” votes were 47 Republicans, a full one-fourth of the caucus, which triggered momentum for a Senate vote on the legislation.

Out U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), has been credited with taking the lead on the legislation. She said over the weekend on PBS Wisconsin the vote would likely be put off until September when lawmakers return from recess, and anticipated 10 Republicans may vote to join Democrats in ending a filibuster to advance the measure.

“There are five Republicans who have publicly stated that they will support the Respect for Marriage Act, and I have spoken with an additional — well, additional many, but five additional members have indicated they are leaning in support, but I think because of how crowded the calendar is for next week, which is our last week before the August recess, and in light of the fact that we can’t have any absences, we need everybody there, and we have a few members with COVID, this is probably going to be a vote that occurs, what I would hope would be early September,” Baldwin said.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has expressed interest in bringing the legislation to the Senate floor, but an effort to push for a vote in the Senate last week was dropped as two senators — Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — were out with COVID and another, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), was recovering from a broken hip after a fall. Much of the oxygen in Congress is also now absorbed by the spending deal Schumer reached with Manchin, which provides for nearly $370 billion in climate investments.

David Stacy, government affairs director for the Human Rights Campaign, echoed in a statement to the Washington Blade the optimism about the bill and expectation the vote would be held in September.

“Given the exceptionally strong, bipartisan House vote and extensive conversations with and among senators from both parties, we agree with Sen. Baldwin’s public statements that there is a realistic, viable path to secure the 60 votes needed in the U.S. Senate to ensure passage this year, likely after the August recess,” Stacy said. “The U.S. Senate should have a vote on the legislation at the earliest opportunity.”

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House Democrats seek IRS review of SPLC listed hate-group’s tax status

The Family Research Council has been designated an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center

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WASHINGTON – A group of House Democrats, in the wake of a report finding the Family Research Council has been granted a special tax status as an “association of churches,” is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the prominent anti-LGBTQ organization’s designation under the tax code.

The Family Research Council has been designated an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its lies, propaganda, and activism against LGBTQ+ people in the United States and overseas.

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) is among those leading a call for an investigation into the FRC

The 38 House Democrats — led by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) — articulate the call in an Aug. 1 letter to the IRS, arguing the Family Research Council is “primarily an advocacy organization and not a church.”

“We understand the importance of religious institutions to their congregants and believe that religious freedom is a cherished American value and constitutional right,” the letter says. “We also believe that our tax code must be applied fairly and judiciously. Tax-exempt organizations should not be exploiting tax laws applicable to churches to avoid public accountability and the IRS’s examination of their activities.”

The impetus for the letter was a July report in ProPublica revealing the Family Research Council — which pushes for legislation against gender reassignment surgery for youth, filed friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of overturning of Roe v. Wade, and pushed for exemptions for individuals refusing to provide services for LGBTQ people over religious objections — is considered an “association of churches” with Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ group, as its religious leader.

According to ProPublica, the Family Research Council is among a number of social conservative groups in recent years that have sought and been granted tax status as churches, which shields them from financial scrutiny. As a result, Family Research Council won’t be required to issue an IRS 990 detailing its finances and salaries of key staff members, nor can the IRS initiate an audit of the organization without approval from a high-ranking Treasury Department official, ProPublica reports.

The letter from House Democrats seeks from the IRS: 1) An expeditious review of the status of the Family Research Council; 2) Investigation on whether other political advocacy organizations have obtained church status, but do not satisfy the IRS requirements for churches; 3) Improvement of the review process for organizations seeking church status to ensure that organizations that aren’t churches can’t abuse the tax code; and 4) a determination on whether existing guidance is sufficient to prevent abuse and whether more congressional actions are necessary.

The Washington Blade has placed a call with the Family Research Council and the Internal Revenue Service seeking comment on the letter and calls to review the organization’s tax status.

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Padilla pushes to protect abortion rights during Planned Parenthood visit

Senator Padilla is a champion for reproductive rights and is a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act

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Senator Padilla visits Planned Parenthood Los Angeles headquarters (Photo Credit: Office of Senator Padilla)

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, visited the Planned Parenthood Los Angeles headquarters on Friday to meet with volunteers, advocates and workers, and highlight his efforts to protect essential reproductive health care in the wake of the Dobbs decision.

Padilla was joined by Sue Dunlap, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and Celinda Vazquez, Chief External Officer of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. The visit comes as nearly half of states across the country continue to restrict access to reproductive care.

“I am grateful for the tremendous level of dedication and care that Planned Parenthood Los Angeles offers to the surrounding community,” said Senator Padilla. “However, across the country women continue to experience the harmful and, in many cases, deadly consequences of a post-Roe America. In the face of unending attacks on reproductive freedom, we will not give up the fight to protect a woman’s right to safe abortion access.”

“We want to extend our sincere thanks to Senator Padilla for stopping by Planned Parenthood Los Angeles to see the importance of our work first hand. Senator Padilla is a long time champion for reproductive health care and access to safe and legal abortion and we’re thankful for his continued advocacy in this critical moment where people from all walks of life are looking to California to lead.” Celinda M. Vazquez, Chief External Affairs Officer, Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.

Senator Padilla is a champion for reproductive rights and is a cosponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would guarantee access and the right to provide abortion services in the United States.

Most recently, Padilla joined his colleagues in introducing the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, legislation that would make it clear that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for abortion services and would empower the U.S. Attorney General and impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict a person’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.

Padilla also successfully secured commitments from SafeGraph and Placer.ai, two data brokers, to permanently stop selling the location data of people who visit abortion clinics. This month, he also urged President Biden to prioritize health equity for people of color, and low-income, immigrant, and tribal communities in any executive actions to address the recent Dobbs decision.

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