Civil Rights

My gender does not make me a liberal

I am a registered Republican. I am a conservative. I have been involved in politics for nearly 10 years, working on campaigns, on the Hill, and now, as a political consultant.
 
And I have two X chromosomes.

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Barney Frank is right, immigration reform must move forward

Every day we fail to reform our broken immigration system, 1,100 families are torn apart because Americans are not afforded the right to sponsor their same-sex partners for immigration.

Unfortunately, an amendment to the Senate immigration bill that would have granted this right to binational same-sex couples received significant backlash from Republican members of Congress and was stripped from the legislation.

Despite this setback, former Congressman Barney Frank is right that immigration reform must move forward -- and for more reasons than he stated.

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Raising Arizona: House bill opens door for SB 1070 in your state

Given a rare moment in history to enact commonsense immigration reform that moves our nation forward, some in Congress are instead proposing legislation that would sanction those who wish to turn back the clock on civil rights.

The impulse to stall commonsense immigration reform has appeared in the Senate, where anti-immigrant extremists have attempted to add even more roadblocks to pending legislation that would create a conditional road to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The presumption is that the more difficult the road, the less likely these aspiring citizens can reach the finish line.

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Don’t make the cost of coming forward too high for aspiring Americans

Over the past year, half a million immigrant youth have received temporary legal status as a result of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy also known as DACA announced by President Obama last June. DACA has made a world of difference for these young people who can now walk the streets without fear and get on with their educations and lives. Yet, so far only 40 percent of the 1.2 million youth who are estimated to be eligible have applied.
 
It is worth asking why so many people who are eligible for something so valuable haven’t come forward yet and what lessons the DACA experience offers for current Senate deliberations on immigration reform.

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Affirmative action still relevant today

The U.S. Supreme Court will shortly rule on two cases regarding affirmative action. Fisher v. University of Texas concerns Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claims that her rejection from the university was influenced by its policy of considering race in admissions decisions. Fisher represents the growing consensus that racial discrimination on any grounds is unacceptable, and a broad ruling on the case could result in the overturning of Grutter v. Bollinger, effectively ending affirmative action at U.S. universities.
 
The second case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, questions whether Michigan state is violating the Equal Protection Clause by amending its constitution to prohibit race and sex based preferential treatment in public university admissions. At the same time, the Supreme Court is considering whether to overturn Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which is being challenged by Shelby County, Ala.

All three cases raise critical questions about the Equal Protection clause: does affording all people with equal consideration necessarily mean treating them in the same way? Do we have a moral obligation to atone for historic discriminations suffered by certain minorities? Does this obligation have an expiry date?

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Enough with the Nazi stuff

In the nearly four years that I’ve been with the National Jewish Democratic Council, it seems like at least once a month I draft a press release, blog post or a tweet condemning inappropriate Holocaust references from Republicans. It’s the same thing every time: I see the comment, drop what I’m doing, draft and send our response, and then repeat the process too soon after.
 
It is deeply saddening that some elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — feel that using the Nazis or the Holocaust to score partisan points is acceptable. It’s not. It’s offensive, and it diminishes the seriousness of the Holocaust when public servants and political leaders are equated with one of the most murderous regimes in human history. 

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It’s time to make marriage equality an American tradition

There was a palpable sense of history as Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the sponsor of the Uniting American Families Act, gave an impassioned closing argument in support of immigration equality for same-sex couples. Other than the sound of fingers clicking keyboards, the packed hearing room was silent. Perhaps the most poignant moment was when Leahy, referring to the Defense of Marriage Act's denial of benefits to same-sex couples, wondered, "Will our grandchildren ask why this law was even on the books?"

While it didn't happen last week, marriage equality is destined to become the law of the land.

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The right side of history: Making immigration reform truly comprehensive

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years working to include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), our nation’s response to domestic and sexual violence. In assessing the evolving needs of survivors of violence when working to reauthorize VAWA, a bill that historically responded to violence in heterosexual relationships, advocates across the country consistently found that one of the greatest needs was the inclusion of LGBT survivors. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced, and stood behind, an LGBT-inclusive VAWA. In February 2013, Congress agreed and passed the bill – including the first ever national LGBT-explicit non-discrimination protections.
 
Now this same Congress is being called upon to consider a comprehensive immigration reform bill to address the evolving needs of immigrants and their loved ones in the United States. Once again, the question of LGBT inclusion in a fundamental policy in this country has come before Congress. With VAWA, Congress voted definitively for the principle that we could not leave anyone behind – that protection under VAWA had to include everyone who needed the protections of the bill.  With immigration reform, Congress has the opportunity to affirm the principle that they cannot leave any family behind. However, right now, the immigration reform bill fails to affirm that principle: the current proposal is not truly “comprehensive” because it leaves LGBT families behind.

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'42' and what it takes to change a nation

There is a scene near the end of the wonderful new movie “42” when Jackie Robinson asks Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey a simple question: “Why did you do it?”  He was asking Rickey why he took the courageous step to break the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947.
Rickey’s response has particular resonance for white pro civil rights Democrats of my generation.

Rickey told a story about how, when he was the player coach of a team at a Methodist college in Ohio 40 years earlier, he had a very talented African-American catcher on his team and how he did nothing to help that catcher pursue his dream to play on a high level. He told Robinson he had regretted his inaction for years and vowed to set things right if he ever had a chance.

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Justice Scalia's insulting remark

The two of us sat in utter shock and disbelief most recently as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, with a simply bizarre verbal utterance, insulted an entire race of people, particularly those who have given their lives so that all citizens in this country have the right to cast a ballot in fair and unbiased public elections.

The hurtful words flowed from the lips of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments on February 27 in the case of Shelby County vs. Holder in which the court will decide the future of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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