Civil Rights

Sebelius should rescind conscience protection regulation (Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner)

Recently, 28 Members joined me in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, asking her to rescind the review of the current conscience protection regulation.

Given President Obama’s commencement address last month at the University of Notre Dame, where he spoke about abortion, it was necessary to send the letter to the HHS Secretary, as she runs the department that oversees the enforcement of conscience protection laws.  We need to hold this Administration’s feet to the fire and ensure President Obama’s actions match his well-scripted rhetoric.  If he is declaring his Administration to be one of choice, then health care workers should have the choice to not perform an abortion without fear or coercion

California high court perpetuated license problem in Prop. 8 decision

Opponents of marriage as the union of a man and a woman are outraged at the California Supreme Court's unsurprising ruling that the voters have the right to amend the state constitution. In America, we respect the results of fair elections, and the passage of Proposition 8 was fair. If anything, the odds were tilted against Proposition 8 by the court's refusal to stay its decision redefining marriage and the attorney general's biased ballot title.

Indeed, it would have been beyond the pale for the court to have struck down Proposition 8, as Justice Moreno wanted to do. The California Constitution itself has embodied the concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in its provision about the separate property of husbands and wives from the beginning of statehood. Instead of revising the constitution, Proposition 8 merely restored the historical meaning of marriage in California.

Understanding Catholic Bishops’ Support of Prop 8

Marriage, the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union between one man and one woman, is the most recognized institution throughout history and across societies. It existed long before the State and prior to the formalizing of religious practice. Marriage is grounded neither in a piece of legislation nor solely in a religious teaching but rather in human nature itself.

As such, marriage is necessarily founded upon sexual difference, man to woman and woman to man, and is for the good of children and the well-being of spouses. The State needs to uphold the reasonable expectation that children deserve a mother and a father, that mothers and fathers are indispensable, that the marital union is unique and incomparable, and that husband and wife should be recognized and protected for their unique status and responsibilities in society. This can and should be done without denying basic human rights to anyone. Sexual difference is beautiful and essential, and the good of society depends upon it and upon the corresponding fruits of strong, healthy, and faithful marriages made possible by this difference. It is not unjust discrimination to treat different things differently.

The Road from Here to Marriage Equality

Today we must turn anger into action.

It's cold comfort to many that history is moving in the right direction, with five states already on their way to marriage equality. But it's our job to make sure history moves faster towards equality here in California.

We must redouble our efforts in California to finally win this fight for equal rights. Please, take a moment today and lend your voice to this just cause.

Sign our petition for marriage equality.

Join the tireless efforts of the Courage Campaign and Equality California.

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post.

Prop 8 Decision a Triumph

The California Supreme Court decision is a triumph for the rule of law and the will of California voters on Proposition 22 and Proposition 8. This should be an encouragement to the people of Iowa and Maine, as well as other states, to push back against the redefinition of marriage. The people of California defended marriage against great odds including an activist court, the gold and glitter of Hollywood, and the well-funded efforts of gay activists.

Less triumphant is the second-half of the Court’s decision which is likely to generate legal chaos for more than 18,000 same-sex couples and the laws of the 45 states that do not recognize same-sex unions as marriage. As these couples move to other states and live their lives, some will attempt to have children or adopt them, and some will break-up. The difficulties associated with these decisions will be heightened by the legal entanglements forced on state lawmakers as they use taxpayer dollars to resolve these situations with their state laws and policies on adoption, divorce and custody. The California Court could have avoided this simply by delaying the effect of their June 2008 ruling until after the November 2008 vote on Proposition 8.

COPPA 2.0: The New Battle over Privacy, Age Verification, Online Safety & Free Speech

Online privacy, child safety, free speech and anonymity are on a collision course.  The 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) already mandates certain online privacy protections for children under 13, but many advocate expanding privacy protections for both adolescents and adults.  Furthermore, efforts continue at both the federal and state levels to institute new regulations, such as age verification mandates, aimed keeping kids safer online.  As we argue in a new PFF paper [PDF], there is an inherent tension between these objectives: Attempts to achieve perfectly “safe” online environments will likely require the surrender of some privacy and speech rights, including the right to speak anonymously.

These tensions are coming to a head with state-based efforts to expand COPPA, which requires “verifiable parental consent” before certain sites or services may collect, or enable the sharing of, personal information from children under the age of 13.  Several proposed state laws would extend COPPA’s parental-consent framework to cover all adolescents under 18.  This seemingly small change would require age verification of not only adolescents and their parents, but also—for the first time—large numbers of adults, thus raising grave First Amendment concerns.

Domestic Partnerships / Nevada

There is a domestic partnership bill in the stack of bills on the Governor’s desk a week and change from the end of the 2009 Nevada Legislative session.  The Governor has until Tuesday, May 26th to sign the bill into law, not sign the bill in which case it becomes law or veto it and send it back to us.

Nevada is one of the states with a definition in its constitution, restricting marriage to a union between a man and a woman so domestic partnership legislation was the avenue for extending civil rights for the sponsor of SB 283, Senator David Parks of Las Vegas, the highest ranking openly gay elected official in Nevada. 

Norquist: Cheney winning the interrogation debate

To follow up on yesterday's dueling speeches on national security, we asked Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, who he thought was winning the public debate--President Obama or Dick Cheney?

Cheney is winning.

The old question was whether torture and secret prisons and Abu Ghraib photo fests were a good idea. Cheney’s team was losing that argument, big time. The new question is having put a bunch of guys in an overseas prison and poked and irritated them for six years, should we release them into your congressional district. These now somewhat grumpy detainees Obama promises will be kept away from your children by the same government workers who runs the post office, the TSA, border security and the DMV. Trust him.

Obama is losing that one, big time.

National Parks Conservation Association Disappointed by Passage of Legislation Permitting Guns in Federal Parks

We are disappointed in the members of the House and Senate who
allowed this amendment to pass, as well as in President Obama. By not
taking a stand to prevent this change, they have sacrificed public
safety and national park resources in favor of the political agenda of
the National Rifle Association. This amendment had no hearing or review,
and will increase the risk of poaching, vandalism of historic park
treasures, and threats to park visitors and staff.

These are special protected places, where millions of American
families and international visitors can view magnificent animals and
majestic landscapes and experience our nation’s history, including
sites where lives were lost to preserve our American ideals.

Youth PROMISE Act: Recognition that it takes a village to raise a child

We know how to stop the violence.

And the full name of the solution says it all: the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support and Education Act, otherwise known as the Youth PROMISE Act.

This legislation breaks the cycle of violence by getting at its root causes. It will help to curb youth violence and gang activity by investing in proven, evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies that localities develop in partnership with the modern day village, namely our schools, nonprofits, community centers, parents and young people.