Tag Archives: Current News

Back from the Dead (with thoughts on the failure to include LGBT couples in immigration reform)

22 May

I started writing this as a comment to a friend’s post on facebook, but then it got really long and then I thought, “hey, didn’t I I used to have a blog where I ranted about stuff?” So here are my thoughts about the disappointment of many that binational couples were not included in the immigration reform bill that just passed the Senate judiciary committee.

There is no explanation but a political one for the failure of the Uniting American Families Act.  There aren’t the votes for UAFA.  There are 100 senators, and not enough of them will support the provision. In the Republican House its chances are somewhere in the negative range.  That may not be a reality we like, but it is an undeniable reality.  The question the movement for Commonsense Immigration Reform was/is faced with is: Are we ok with halting the bill altogether, with sacrificing the legalization of 11 million people to make a point? We may not like the choices, but that is what they are right now. Either accept a bill without UAFA, which its proponents say will help approximately 40,000 people, or insist on it and stop any chance of legalization for 11 million people. My answer: I support UAFA but I’m not willing to sacrifice 11 million for those 40,000. Call me a sellout.  I’m sure this blogger would. She writes about yesterday’s disappointing news:

I completely and totally reject this decision due to the fact that my husband will have a permanent residency appointment in the very near future because of our heterosexual privilege.

In my world, there’s no excuse, no manner to explain away what happened yesterday. I will not simply tweet out a consolatory message, or rue the fact that sacrifices had to be made.

And those so-called immigrant activists? Those same ones who dare to tell you binational same-sex couples that, “Once the reform becomes law, we’ll come back for the you,” or say to you with earnest eyes, “Don’t worry – The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be struck down next month.”

Those same activists who supposedly believe that, “No human being is illegal?”

I’ll gladly help you slap each and every one of those so-called immigration activists clear across the face.

In Love and Solidarity Always,


PS And all of you supposedly pro-immigrant organizations, groups and individuals that are sending out congratulatory messages, all of you in the online and offline community who were chanting proudly after the vote at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting yesterday, I offer this to you:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.”

-Martin Niemöller

We are right to fight for UAFA, and author’s blunt words come from real conviction. But support for UAFA is not the question.  Read the whole blog post and you’ll see there is a lot of passion, there is no answer to the question above.  Should the whole bill go down because UAFA is not in it?  I’m not dismissive of her passion but her need to mock and deride those who dared celebrate committee passage of the full bill, that’s a little much.  And the over-used Niemoller quote? Puh-leaze.

The fight for immigration reform began in the 80s after the last one still did not create a sane system to keep people from coming to the country and having to live in the shadows. The Uniting American Families Act is legislation was first introduced in 2000 but has had no real support until very recently. That doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, it just means that there has not been the kind of movement behind of UAFA that has finally put CIR on the table.

And then there are the really annoying gay blogger/activists, like John Aravosis of americablog.com, who in a tweetrage about the withdrawal of the Leahy Amendment, had this to say:

That tells you all you need to know about some of the loudest voices on this subject right now. When Aravosis pulls out the “we’re not law-breakers” line (he’s done it before) he is reminding everyone this bill is only helping those horrible “illegals.” It’s disgusting. Worse, elsewhere he has mocked the idea that legalizing 11 million people does help gay people because many of those 11 million are gay. That’s whose leading the charge among the prominent gay politicos on calling those of us not willing to sacrifice 11 million sellouts.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

Aravosis. Mean Gay.

The fight for marriage equality has made enormous strides in recent years. I support it and, in fact, I rearranged my life in the last two years to defeat the horrible Minnesota amendment and then pass equality. As a gay man who is a citizen of this country I must acknowledge a fact that I hope others can ponder: the cause of gay rights, especially regarding marriage, have progressed far more rapidly than any progress made for immigrants living in shadows. In fact, things have only gotten worse, dramatically worse.

Of course I support the goals of UAFA. But the political reality of vote-counting says it won’t happen and insistence on it will sink a bill that does a lot of the things we do need to have happen, including legalizing millions.  In politics sometimes the choices are stark.  In this case, I’ll take the imperfect and move on to fight another day.

[I’m taking a bit of a leave from work. After suffering through a chronic neck connection all winter, a couple weeks ago I threw out my back. “What were you doing?”, I was asked by an ER nurse. “Putting on socks. While being old.”  With my body telling me I need a rest, I’m taking a much needed long vacation.  One thing I do hope to do on that leave is, now that I have re-discovered it, is write about the world and stuff on this blog.]

All the Archbishop’s Men: Silent on Voter Restriction

2 Nov

I attended last night’s MPR debate about Minnesota’s upcoming vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, which featured two national figures on each side of the issue as well as two local leaders.  Representing the No Side: Bishop Gene Robinson, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire and Sarah Walker, a leader in restorative criminal justice and Board Member of Minnesotans United for All Families. Representing the Yes side were Brian Brown, President of the National Organization for Marriage and the Reverend Jerry McAfee of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.

Across the river from the MPR debate, the Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church was packed for an interfaith celebration and sendoff for the Vote No GOTV weekend. (Photo tweeted by Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak)

While the two men of the cloth disagreed a lot over scripture, I’d like to focus this post instead on one of the political arguments made by Reverend Jerry McAfee of Minneapolis, one he has made in public before – that the progressive political infrastructure has been singularly focused on marriage, to the detriment of the campaign to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment. McAfee has received a lot of press attention by MPR and other press outlets for his complaint that the DFL was not doing enough to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment, a top priority for the African American community.

I have been in meetings with Reverend McAfee where I heard –and agreed with–his frustration with the relative lack of attention that was being paid to the Voter Restriction Amendment.  I disagreed with his analysis of the why, but I could relate to the frustration many of us felt earlier this year that there was a collective failure on the part of the progressive left to take the Voter Restriction Amendment seriously.  While the Reverend sought to blame “the DFL,” I thought the problem was broader.  While the progressive infrastructure had, in the past two years, mobilized to keep “Right to Work” and other budget amendments from getting on the ballot, polls showing big support for Voter ID in concept were met with a collective shrug of “we can’t win that.”

That has changed. Polls show the more Minnesotans learn about the Voter Restriction Amendment, the less they like it.  And the resources have finally begun to flow.  We are outspending proponents in the final week and have a broad coalition  of faith, labor and community groups educating voters about this Amendment and flipping people in droves to the position that, however you feel about Voter ID, we can agree that this particular legislation was poorly written and will be expensive, and therefore  we need to Send It Back to the legislature. DFL sample ballots include the Vote No on Voter Restriction position printed on it, and the party’s field operation, together with the work of TakeAction and the faith-based coalition ISAIAH, has had tens of thousands of conversations with voters. These have been at the core of the shifting poll numbers.

Although at the MPR debate last night the Reverend noted the same complaint about the relative lack of attention to Voter Restriction, it’s not his failure to note that progress has been made that I found frustrating. The change that stood out to me was that, since those first stories the Reverend McAfee has, as he was last night, become a prominent voice for the Vote Yes on the Marriage Amendment campaign.

Reverend McAfee, angry at those who focused solely on marriage, now stands with an Archbishop solely focused on marriage.

How can the same person who blasted the DFL for its supposed indifference to Voter ID now stand with Archbishop Nienstedt of the Catholic Church, probably the single largest institution in the state of Minnesota that is actively silent on the Voter Restriction Amendment?  And I don’t mean “stand with” figuratively.  The Reverend has a featured speaker along with the Archbishop when Nienstedt rallied religious leaders in mid-September to Vote Yes.

And yet, under the iron fist of an Archbishop pathologically obsessed with same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church has changed its position on Voter ID from opposed to neutral – neutral on this issue of extreme importance to communities of color.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Singularly Focused on Marriage

Before engaging the Catholic Church’s sleight of hand when it comes to the Voter Restriction Amendment, let us recall that not all of the faithful are silent on an amendment that will keep many poor and elderly citizens from voting.  In mid-October, the Minnesota Council of Churches announced its opposition to the Voter Restriction Amendment:

In a written statement, the Council’s President, St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Bishop Peter Rogness said “the fundamental issue that brings us here is our concern for those for whom this step – which seems easy for most in the mainstream – becomes a barrier to participating in the shaping of our public life together.”

It was an issue of “defending the right of the last, lost and least to vote and therefore oppose the amendment,” he added.

On the day of the Council of Churches announcement, Our Vote Our Future, the campaign to defeat the Voter Restriction Amendment, sent out a press release listing among the faith groups opposing the Amendment the the Minnesota Catholic Conference. They then sent a corrected press release stating,  “In fact, the Minnesota Catholic Conference changed its position a year after originally opposing it.  They are no longer taking any position on this amendment.”

Wait, what? Changed its position?  Back when Voter ID legislation was being debated at the Capitol, the “Catholic Spirit” reported it opposition:

Opponents, including the Minnesota Catholic Conference, say the requirement would disenfranchise the elderly, college students and minorities.

Katie Conlin, interim social concerns director for MCC, told The Catholic Spirit: “The reality is that a lot of people don’t have photo identification. And while these bills would create a free government-issued ID for people . . . that doesn’t address the difficulty in getting that ID for some folks.

“You would still have to have some sort of supporting documentation in order to get the ID,” Conlin explained. “Let’s say you’re a woman who got married and had a name change. Then you would have to have your birth certificate, your marriage license and proof of your current residence.

“Then you’d have to get to wherever it is that the ID is going to be issued,” she added. “It would affect anyone with limited access to transportation.”

(See State Catholic conference opposes voter ID bills _ TheCatholicSpirit)

So, what happened?  Sources tell me the Catholic Conference position changed after a meeting they had with Dan McGrath, the one-man-show at Minnesota Majority running the effort to pass the Voter Restriction Amendment.  I asked Our Vote Our Future if they had been invited to address the Catholic Conference as well. Communications Director Eric Fought had this to say:

There was a sudden shift in the position of the Minnesota Catholic Conference earlier this year, as they moved from being opposed to the Voter Restriction Amendment to ‘neutral.’ Recently, Mr. Adkins told a reporter covering the race that he offered a meeting with the bishops to a representative of our campaign in September.

No such offer was received. We most certainly would have welcomed the opportunity to address the bishops about the many costs and consequences of the Voter Restriction Amendment. There is no doubt, Minnesota Catholics will be greatly affected by this poorly written amendment.

Where is the Outrage?

Can we imagine what it might be like if, from every Catholic pulpit, priests were giving sermons against the Voter Restriction Amendment, they way they are being instructed to speak for the marriage amendment? Might the polls showing an evenly split electorate on Voter Restriction tip in the direction of a No Vote?

That is a good question for Reverend McAfee. As I said, I agreed with his frustration about the lack of resources going to the effort to defeat Voter Restriction even as I disagreed with this analysis of why it was happening.  For him, this was about the DFL privileging a wealthier gay (and white) constituency.  To me, there were some benign reasons and some deeply problematic.  First, marriage was put on the ballot two years before the election, giving the campaign time to mount an enormous effort, and the broad, multi-partisan coalition to defeat that amendment required that campaign–early on and when no other amendment was on the ballot– to decide to be singularly focused on the marriage amendment.

More problematic, however, there was also a collective failure of the progressive (not just party) infrastructure to take on the Voter Restriction fight early on.  With a few exceptions, for example, unions were very slow to take on this fight.  After Tuesday, when I believe we will edge out a narrow victory and defeat the amendment, we should look at the representation of organizations representing people of color at the tables that make decisions about what fights to take on and which to sit out.

But, I must ask again the Reverend McAfee — how can someone so upset about the perceived singular focus of the left on marriage now stand with the Vote Yes campaign?  If there is a Vote Yes GOTV operation out of New Salem Baptist Church, it is presumably funded by the “Minnesotans for Marriage” campaign. That campaign, as has been widely reported, is being funded almost single-handedly by Archbishop Nienstedt and the Catholic Church, the single most powerful institution in the state of Minnesota that is doing what Reverend McAfee accused the DFL of doing — being singularly focused on marriage, to the detriment of the efforts to defeat Voter Restriction.

Will the Reverend, before Tuesday, denounce the Archdiocese silence on Voter Restriction?

People of Faith Call to Action

If you are a Catholic, you might want to call the  Archdiocese and ask the Church why it is silent on a ballot question that, if passed, will restrict the representation of the poor and dispossessed in the electorate.  Even better, volunteer with other people of faith to phone bank this weekend. You can do so through ISAIAH.

If you belong to a Church that is turning you out to Vote Yes on Marriage and No on Voter ID, ask your Pastor – why are we standing with the Catholic Church, which is hurting our effort to defeat Voter Restriction? Then, VOLUNTEER.


I just heard from a Catholic friend, parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in Minneapolis, who called the Archdiocese to ask why the Church was only speaking out on one Amendment.  The person who answered the phone first claimed the Catholic Conference had spoken out against the Voter ID Amendment [they had, then changed their minds]. After my friend pointed out that the Catholic Conference’s website is filled with marriage amendment missives alone, this person told my friend that “there is no evidence” that communities of color will be disenfranchised if the Amendment passes. Sounds like this “neutral” person has some talking points from Minnesota Majority.

In reality, according to the League of Women Voters:

Approximately 11% of the voting population does not carry a photo ID that meets these rigid requirements. The percentage is higher among certain groups: the elderly (18%), younger adults (18%), minorities (25% of African-Americans) and people who are low-income (15%).

Looks the Archdiocese needs to update its talking points.

The Civil Unions Ruse Has Arrived: All the Archbishop’s Men Fund a Lie

25 Sep

Well that didn’t take long.

Just two days ago this blog warned of The Coming Civil Unions Ruse, where supporters of the amendment to limit the freedom to marry would start to tell voters that they can have their proverbial wedding cake and eat yours too.

All the Archbishop’s Men: Now Officially Funding a Lie

As Sunday’s Star Tribune Poll shows, even a majority of those planning to vote for the amendment believe in basic fairness for gay and lesbian couples and would support civil unions that would be “recognized as marriage in Minnesota.” I asked then if we would see the same pattern in Minnesota that other states have seen, where supporters of a constitutional amendment to limit the freedom to marry pretend to be for civil unions and then oppose legislative efforts to pass civil unions the second the balloting is over.

Today Sally Jo Sorensen at Bluestem Prairie finds Minnesotans for Marriage’s communications director, Chuck Darrell beginning to lay the groundwork for precisely that Civil Unions Ruse:

Yesterday on the St. Peter Herald’s website, News Editor Kurt Hildebrandt reported in Minnesota for Marriage brings message to St. Peter area, that M4M communications director Chuck Darrell was pushing civil unions as an alternative to marriage for committed same-sex couples should the marriage restriction amendment pass in November:

“Darrell does state that if the marriage amendment does get approval that it will not stop the debate on the issue. Also, a “yes” vote on the issue does not preclude civil unions or stop the Legislature from enacting future legislation on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) unions, but it would give a clear definition of marriage.”

So what’s the problem?  Darrell’s collecting a paycheck funded largely by the Catholic Church–indeed, one of the three lead stories in the Strib’s Morning Hot Dish political newsletter was Minnesota Catholics asked to pay for marriage vote TV ads.

So, Mr. Darrell, whose salary is paid for largely by the money of All the Archbishop’s Men (and the parishioners they’re hitting up for cash), is out there peddling civil unions despite the fact that the Archbishop himself says “Civil unions, in my opinion, are just a smoke screen for so-called same-sex ‘marriage.'”

You have to wonder what His Grace thinks of Mr. Darrell’s seeming push for civil unions.  Will he allow him to continue this ruse?  I know the Charming Mr. Darrell assumes all Vote No supporters are godless heathens, but I do remember my Sunday School teacher calling that whole “do not bear false witness” thing not as recommendation, but a commandment.

So, do you believe that, after spending all this money, His Grace will simply sit back and let civil unions happen?  Keep Dreaming.

Minnesotans, keep the conversations going.   Do not believe the Civil Unions Ruse.  This November, there is only one vote for fairness. And that vote is No.

Question to Minnesota’s reporters:

Who will be the first to ask the Archbishop why he is asking Catholics across the state to fund a campaign that is pushing the notion of civil unions, something the Church opposes just as vehemently as marriage? Any takers?

All the Archbishop’s Men: Church asks Catholics to Pay for Ads to Scare Parents

25 Sep

From this morning’s Star Tribune we learn that All the Archbishop’s Men have taken the “unusual” step of sending a mailing to more than 400,000 Catholics in Minnesota.  In Catholics asked to pay for marriage vote ads,Rose French reports:

All the Archbishops Men: Help us Pay for Ads to Scare Your Kids (Photo Star Tribune)

In trying to reach every Catholic household in Minnesota, the mailing is “unusual” compared to Catholics’ roles in marriage amendment campaigns in other states, said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron (Ohio), who studies politics and religion.

“I can’t think of anything as direct and as explicit,” Green said. “I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it legally, but certainly I’m sure it’s very controversial. Catholic leaders have been involved in fundraising. I know of examples where they have reached out to parishioners, but I’ve never heard of anything quite this comprehensive.”

Besides asking Catholics to make contributions, bishops are encouraging them to vote yes on the amendment, according to a letter sent to priests and church administrators last week from Jason Adkins, executive director of Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state.

The mailing “gives Catholics an opportunity to support the passage of the amendment and asks them to send a contribution to where it will be most effective,” Adkins’ letter states. In an interview Monday, Adkins said the mailing is being coordinated and paid for by his group and will cost close to $100,000.

Church helps finance drive

So far this year, Catholic leadership has been one of the biggest financial backers of pro-amendment forces, directing close to $500,000 in support of it, according to campaign finance records. The Minnesota Catholic Conference said it reported raising $750,000 in 2011. Much of that came in a $650,000 contribution from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which tapped its investments to help fund the marriage amendment campaign.

So what will Catholics be paying for?

I imagine Catholics thinking about heeding His Grace’s plea for cash may want to consider what they’ll be paying for.

I’ve been saying for a while that the Vote Yes will, in the final weeks of the campaign, seek to scare the bejesus out of parents. Preying on parent’s fears that they will lose control over the values their children learn, past campaigns (all run by the same campaign manager) have painted a world where children are taught about boys marrying boys before they are ready to grasp these adult concepts.  Probably the most famous of these past, successful attempts was California’s Prop 8 “Princess” ad:

This ad was incredibly effective for two reasons – it put a seed of doubt with soft supporters of the No on Prop 8 campaign, especially families with young children.  Secondly, the No on 8’s in-fighting and lack of resources meant that the ad was on the air for two weeks without a response, a deadly combination.

In Minnesota, we will have the resources to respond, but we should all think hard about the first problem, about the uncertainty the Vote on Yes campaign will seek to insert into parents’ minds about a world where they’ve lost control over what their kids learn and when they learn it.

What they’ve successfully accomplished in California, Maine, and elsewhere, is feed parental anxiety about uncomfortable subjects and helps people forget that kids learning about love in the home is not the equivalent of having a birds and the bees conversation before you’re ready.  As Kim and John, the couple in Minnesotans United for All Families’ first TV ad, say, “In our daughter’s world, her normal is so different than ours.  It didn’t faze her at all.”

One of my favorite viral youtube videos is of a kid learning about a gay couple being married:

“So that means you love each other.”  Exactly – something so simple even a kid can understand (and explain) it.

Minnesotans for Marriage: Using Kids to Argue that Voting No Will Hurt Kids

Yesterday I asked, wouldn’t it be ironic if the Vote Yes side – which is seeking to “protect” kids, went out of the way to put children in the middle of the very political debate our state is having right now?  I reprinted the letter of Jenny, a mother whose four year-old came home from a Christian daycare with a Vote Yes letter tucked away in his backpack.

Today we have Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie has done us the favor of showing us two of Greater Minnesota examples of Vote Yes Kid Fearmongering.  Check out the entire post at Bluestem, it’s really good. She cites a story in the Faribault Daily News, Faribault Catholic school posts signs supporting marriage amendment:

City ordinance doesn’t address it, state law allows it, and the IRS doesn’t appear to restrict it.

The First Amendment, however, protects it.

But that isn’t keeping a number of locals from voicing their disapproval for signs that showed up in front of a Catholic grade school over the weekend. The Faribault Daily News Facebook page has been flooded with messages from one side or the other since one resident posed the question Sunday evening.

Liz Fritz saw the signs on her way to work Saturday morning. The signs, placed in front of Divine Mercy Catholic School on Third Avenue, promote voting for a statewide ballot question that would define marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The signs tell people to “vote yes” and that marriage is between “one man, one woman.”

“I felt betrayed,” Fritz said. “I went to school there and I know how hard it is to be a third-grader and be told you’re supposed to marry a man but know that that’s not what you’re feeling or thinking. I know how it feels to be different and it just hurts to know the kids going there now are going to be even more reminded of that.”

But Associate Pastor and Assistant School Principal the Rev. Erik Lundgren says the decision to put up the signs wasn’t one taken lightly. A group of local marriage amendment supporters from the parish asked to put the signs up and, since the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has pushed for support of the campaign, school and church officials said yes.

“Being a Catholic is really about living out your faith and we take political decisions very seriously,” Lundgren said. “We are asked to not just shape ourselves but shape the world.”

Fritz’s post spurred debate — by Monday morning more than 50 people had given their input on the issue on the paper’s Facebook page. The discussion jumped from whether or not the signs should be allowed in front of the school to opinions on religion and the ballot question itself.

More Kid Fearmongering From Dear Dear State Representative Mary Franson

State Representative Mary Franson, last seen making national headlines when she compared the poor to wild animals, is Sorensen’s second example of Kid Fearmongering. After Bluestem posted video of a debate between Franson and her opponent last Sunday, the City Pages’ Aaron Rupar wrote about how our dear State Representative declared homosexuality not to be normal, and now national websites like Raw Story and Think Progress have picked up on the story. In Franson: Homosexuality isn’t normal, Rupar writes of Franson’s fear for children in the classroom:

Franson also expressed concern that if the marriage amendment is defeated, Minnesota’s public schools might follow Massachusetts’ alleged practice of indoctrinating students to (gasp!) accept homosexuality as
something normal. . . .

At this point we might be reminded that All the Archbishop’s Men and Minnesotans for Marriage insist that marriage must be held sacred.  The Archdiocese has said marriage must be “protected” because:

In civil society, marriage’s essential public purpose is about providing kids with what they need — both a mom and a dad. Marriage is a reality that unites a man and a woman and any children born from their union. While there are many types of loving relationships, marriage is more.

At this point we might also ponder the fact that Representative Franson is twice divorced–and, therefore, a single mom.  Of course, ever so good at playing the victim, I’m sure she and her chorus will howl, “That’s bullying! How dare you bring her family into this?”

Only we are allowed to judge others, to call some marriages more and some less.

Hell hath no fury like a hypocrite called out.

The Coming Civil Unions Ruse: Will The Archbishop Bear False Witness?

23 Sep

Sunday’s release of the Star Tribune poll tells us what we’ve known for a long time about the effort to defeat the amendment to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota: it’s going to be close.  49% support the amendment, 47% oppose, within the margin of error of the poll and in recount territory.

However, the numbers that should frighten supporters of the Vote No campaign are those to a second question the Minnesota Poll asked, “If same-sex couples are not allowed to marry, do you support or oppose allowing civil unions that would grant the same legal status as marriage?” Respondents said:

SUPPORT 68% 65% 72% 79% 55% 66% 50% 91%
OPPOSE 23% 25% 20% 11% 34% 27% 41% 4%
UNDECIDED 9% 10% 8% 10% 11% 6% 9% 5%

Why should it worry us?  After all, it shows that Minnesotans across the political spectrum are fair-minded and want people to share in equality.  Even 50% of respondents planning to vote “yes” agreed with civil unions, as did 55% of Republicans.

The reason it should worry us because we know from other states that our opponents use this strong belief in fairness as a ruse to fool voters into thinking they can both be fair and preserve the sanctity of marriage.

Don’t believe me?  Check out this ad, one of the closing arguments the Vote Yes on Question 1 Campaign used in the 2009 referendum that put a ban on same-sex marriage into that state’s Constitution:

All the Archbishop’s Men on Civil Unions: Not So Much

Why is this on the ballot? Was Minnesota clamoring for it? No. Ideology was behind it, and money was behind it. And the same forces that aligned to put this ban on same-sex marriage into our Constitution are just as adamantly opposed to civil unions.

The ideology of cultural conservatives in the Republican Party led Tim Pawlenty to reject contracts for state employees that included domestic partner benefits, something the Administration of Jesse Ventura had enacted.  When he vetoed a bill that would have granted same-sex partners the right to make end-of-life decisions for their loved ones, Governor Pawlenty said: “Marriage — defined as between a man and woman — should remain elevated in our society at a special level, as it traditionally has been. I oppose efforts to treat domestic relationships as the equivalent of traditional marriage. Accordingly, I am opposed to this bill.”

Have those Republicans changed?  Not a bit.  If anything, they are more conservative, having run the few moderates in their party out on a rail. We’ve seen this in recent contract negotiations with state employees, where the same cultural conservatives in the GOP who put the amendment on the ballot howled at the prospect of the Dayton Administration offering domestic partner benefits in negotiations.

And now on to money—who was behind the effort to put the amendment on the ballot and who is funding the campaign to win its passage?  As has been reported by MPR and others, “The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is the single largest contributor to the vote yes campaign.”

So what does the Most Reverend John Neinstedt, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis—and the principal funder of the Vote Yes campaign—think of civil unions?  According to a question and answer helpfully provided by the Archdiocese website, he’s not too fond of those either:

Some people say that they are not for redefining marriage, but they have no problem with civil unions. Is there a distinction between the two, with regard to the Church’s position?

Civil unions, in my opinion, are just a smoke screen for so-called same-sex “marriage.” In fact, so-called “marriage equality” groups have already begun opposing them, and in states where civil unions exist, such as in Washington, New Jersey and California, the movement to redefine marriage simply accelerates. There are ways of ensuring that people of the same gender have access to certain public services or privileges without redefining marriage. By contrast, civil unions are, if you will, the nose of the camel coming under the tent

All the Archbishop’s Men Also Oppose Civil Unions (Photo, Pioneer Press)

He who fears camels poking under tents will oppose civil unions with the same viciousness that his divided his flock in Minnesota.  And, if the Minnesotans for Marriage campaign puts out an ad such as the one we saw in Maine, the His Grace and His Flock will have funded a lie.

Minnesotans are Fair: Keep Those Conversations Going

If you know fair-minded people who might be among those represented by the poll numbers above – people uncomfortable with the idea of “marriage” but ok with civil unions – talk to them.  Tell them that a yes vote will make civil unions politically difficult to impossible for years to come.  There will be little political will to move a rights agenda, and, as we saw above, the same forces that put this on the ballot will only be emboldened and oppose those moves as well.

The silver lining in all of this:  What these poll numbers show us is that Minnesotans are conflicted.  These are not people blinded by bigotry.  They want to do the right thing, and that is a good thing.  Our job between now and November is to let people know that there is only one vote to make for fairness, and that is a No Vote.


Ann Romney: Was Marie Antoinette Ever Sent Out to ‘Humanize’ Louis XVI?

19 Sep

“Mitt Doesn’t Disdain the Poor.”  That was the title of a video the Romney campaign is reported to have uploaded and then deleted from their youtube account.

Add that one to your Best Campaign Slogans of 2012.

Apparently the deleted video featured a clip from an interview Ann Romney with a Fox affiliate in Denver, where la Reina was trotted out to play a little defense and explain that, once again, her husband is being misunderstood.  You can see the full video of the interview here.

Reina Romney in her $900 t-shirt. (Photo Credit: ‘CBS This Morning’)

Now the woman with the $900 t-shirts is tasked, once again, with informing us that she’s married to a human. But, boy, she just can’t keep herself from reminding us that she’s married to a very rich human: Vote for Mitt because he empathizes with your struggle!  Why else would he run for office? Reina Romney declares in the interview, “This is a guy who obviously doesn’t need to do this for a job.”

Come on, you 47 percenters, stop mooching enough to realize he’s not doing this for the money!  He rolls around in cash! (When he makes it to the Cayman Islands to visit it, of course).

This is, or course, familiar territory for Reina Romney. At the GOP convention in Tampa she painted a vivid picture of a time when she and Mitt once lived in a basement and ate out of cans of tuna and only made ends meet by selling stocks. Just like Joe Sixpack would do.

Seeing that didn’t work, the Humanizer in Chief later took back the whole Tuna Cans and Stocks fiction, admitting that “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives.”  She also informed us that el Rey was a victim in all of this:  Her husband was being demonized!

As the new cycle keeps churning out more stories and analysis of the 47% worldview, I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of Reina Romney.

A Thug Can Hope.

Rey Mitt’s 47% Worldview

Last night I debated Mitt’s 47% Worldview with Republican Annette Meeks on our local Fox affiliate. Watch here.  See if you can catch Meeks calling Bill Clinton a Great President!:

Journalist Michael Kinsley once wrote, “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.” In this case, Mitt was speaking his truth, not the truth. Because this can’t be said enough – the 47% myth is simply wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.  ABC News did a helpful breakdown of the talking point:

Nearly two-thirds of the households that did not pay income tax in 2011 were on the hook for payroll taxes, a 4.2 percent tax that is automatically deducted from workers’ paychecks to fund Social Security and Medicare.

Only 18 percent of tax filers did not have to pay either income tax or payroll taxes.

Nearly all of the people who did not pay either type of tax were elderly – 10.3 percent of total tax filers – or had incomes less than $20,000 – 6.9 percent.

Of course, it’s not just the elderly and indigent who “get away with” not paying income tax.  “About 1 percent of the top 1 percent of income earners, those making about $533,000 or more, did not pay income taxes.”  Of course, the elderly and indigent don’t pay because they don’t have enough money, the super rich for very different reasons. Guess which group Mitt has a problem with?

Even conservative political commentators bristled.  Matt Welch, writing for the Libertarian magazine Reason wrote:

“What the 53/47 dividing line says, to the direct contrary, is that income status is a permanent political condition, defrocking all Americans of agency and independent thought…. There are to my mind many more important things to consider in this presidential race than Mitt Romney’s reductive parroting of plausible-but-wrong GOP tropes. But the reason this controversy will have legs is ultimately because many Republicans think Romney’s comments were just fine. They are about to learn what the rest of the country thinks about that.”

And that is precisely the problem for Mitt and his attempts to brush this away.  The 47% Conundrum is the mess that comes from imbibing too much Tea Party extremism, where you defend income and tax inequality at all costs.  Taxes are bad for me, not for thee.

Put that on a bumper sticker.

Someone wasn’t eating his Wheaties when he came up with ‘Dump General Mills’

26 Jun

When it comes to protest, a general rules applies: Don’t Over-Promise. Don’t Under-Deliver. The brainchild behind the “Dump General Mills” campaign might have thought of that before getting all of the Minnesota media out to meet what was reported as “about 50” or “dozens of supporters” ready to do some dumping.

You know, I know a little something about boycotts. Back in 2010, when I helped lead SEIU’s national immigration campaign, we were one of the organizations leading the boycott of that state in the wake of Governor Brewer signing of Arizona law SB1070. And it had an effect. (Bet you didn’t think I could bring together two of the things I’ve written about on this blog – Arizona and the Minnesota Marriage Amendment!)

Tuesday morning Minnesotans for Marriage sent out a release saying “We’ve heard from hundreds of people who are extremely disappointed with General Mills opposition to the marriage amendment,” said Andy Parrish,  Minnesota for Marriage Deputy Campaign Manager.

The Pioneer Press reported “about 50” protestors showed up, though many more were promised.

By afternoon, when press reported that “dozens” had shown up, their numbers had inflated: “We have heard from thousandsof Minnesotans that are pretty upset that General Mills has come out against a marriage between a man and a woman,” said Chuck Darrell, spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage.

“We encourage you to bring your unopened General Mills products from home and dump them in our trailer at the rally.” said Minnesota for Marriage’s morning press release. Quite the trailer.

What do you do when you have no bad guy?

You can’t blame Minnesotans for (Meddling in Other People’s) Marriage(s) for trying to find themselves a bad guy to rally their base.

One of the things that is different about the Minnesota marriage fight is that, here, there isn’t the boogeyman of “activist judges” that has energized their base in other states.

In Minnesota, it was the Legislature that picked this fight. They did so even as they drove the government to shut down, even in the middle of a budget crisis, even in the middle of a jobs crisis, even in the middle of a financial meltdown.  They made this their priority.  That, in addition to dramatic generational and cultural shifts, has energized those who believe our constitution should not be used to limit the freedom to marry.

So the other side is struggling to find a bad guy.

Betty Crocker will just have to do.

Betty just ain’t that scary.


So how did General Mills react? They brought the small group of protesters coffee.

The Star Tribune reported that they brought coffee out to the protestors.  “It’s the neighborly thing to do,” General Mills spokesman Tom Forsythe told those who had gathered. “I was raised as a Minnesotan, and when people drop by your house, you put on coffee, so that’s what we did.”

Told ya. Our side is nicer.

Another reason Minnesotans won’t stop the conversation about marriage.

The GOP has some splainin’ to do to the Latino Community

22 Jun

I was just thinking back yesterday to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and then I ran into this story about how Sotomayor still receives gift from fans in the public.

While I have not (yet) sent Justice Sotomayor a gift, I confess that on the day of President Obama’s announcement of her appointment, I was a kind of giddy that would have been embarrassing had anybody witnessed it.  Leaving the gym early that morning, I stopped in a shopping mall parking lot, pulled out my laptop and watched the announcement online. When she talked about her mom and the cameras panned to her–well, yes, I kind of lost it.

A hero to many in the Latino community, Justice Sotomayor still receives gifts from the public.

I’ve been thinking back to Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing this week, watching the slow-motion train wreck that has been the Romney campaign and the Republican Party’s reactions to President Obama’s dramatic announcement last week granting relief to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings were covered by Latino media the way, back in the day, everyone else covered the O.J. Trial. And, although all the pundits agreed that her confirmation was certain, the Latino public nonetheless saw Sotomayor being grilled by a small group of Senators as some kind of crazy radical.

Senator Tom Coburn, confronting Sotomayor about her supposed extremism, dug deep into the synapses of his small brain where he houses Latino stereotypes and pulled up – who else? – Ricky Ricardo!  Sonia, he said, “you have some splainin’ to do.”

And some in the GOP wonder why their brand is so damaged in the Latino community?

During the primary, Sotomayor was a favorite punching bag for Romney. He criticized Rick Santorum for his 1996 vote to confirm Sotomayor to a federal circuit court and was so tone deaf as to even criticize Sotomayor, the boricua Justice, when on a campaign stop in Puerto Rico (where he also encouraged Puerto Ricans to speak English).

President Obama’s Announcement, Romney at NALEO y la Baladada de Marco Rubio

I looked to Univisión yesterday to see how they were covering Mitt Romney’s much touted address to NALEO – the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials – and the headline says it all. “Romney changes tone but offers little substance.”

Although his campaign promised that the NALEO speech would finally bring details to his immigration policy, Mr. Romney couldn’t even bring himself to say whether he would reverse President Obama’s order to halt the deportations of young immigrants. But we know Romney is between a rock and hard place. Congressional Republicans have lined up against Obama’s policy, making it easier for the President to get full credit from the Latino community –new poll shows the President up big with Latinos in swing states–and impossible for Mitt to speak with any clarity.

No one’s felt the GOP Latino Multiple Personality Disorder more than the Senator from Florida, el pobrecito Marco Rubio.

First, when Mr. Romney turned to the Senator’s Dream Act Lite idea to explain his non-position on the day of the Obama announcement, some said Mr. Rubio’s VP chances had risen.

Then came news that Marquito was not being vetted.

It was awkward timing for that story to get out, given that immigration was the topic of the week.  So Romney backtracked and assured everyone that el Senador was definitely being vetted. Totally.

But wait – then news got out of a super exclusive retreat with the Romney campaign that included a sleep-over for all the potential V.P. candidates. But someone forgot to invite Marco!

As we say in Puerto Rico, Pobre, Marco – lo tienen del tingo al tango.

Maybe the Senator can put in a call to Sonia to ask for some sisterly advice:

Óyeme, Sonia, how did you put up with these guys?”

Why Minnesotans Won’t Stop the Conversation About Marriage

21 Jun

In a story about fundraising numbers reported Tuesday of this week by the campaigns for and against the proposed amendment to limit the freedom to marry in Minnesota, Fox 9 reporter Tom Lyden went on the hunt for a live spokesperson from the oddly titled group “Minnesotans for Marriage” and found them “not quite so easy to get a hold of.”

He reports, “Fox 9 stopped by their office Tuesday, which is actually a post office box at a Roseville UPS store.”

The P.O. Box was mum.

But who can blame that poor little box? Statements coming from the Minnesotans for [Meddling in Other People’s] Marriage[s] as of late have been downright weird.

Reached for comment, a P.O. Box in Roseville remained tight-lipped.

While in other state battles, conservative forces have often defined the terms of the debate, in Minnesota the conversation is being led by the campaign to defeat the amendment, while the pro-amendment forces are reacting and reactive. When Minnesotans against the amendment have defined marriage as being about love and commitment, our opponents have, amazingly, defensively, stated the opposite – marriage is not about love and commitment.  The definition of marriage, their spokespeople say, “has absolutely nothing to do with feelings of pride, harmony or love.”

Go to the other side’s rallies and you’ll hear things like, “you have no right to marry someone you love.”

Seriously. Marriage is not about love and commitment.

Who will tell the children?

Why Minnesota will buck the trend and defeat the Amendment

Pro-amendment forces seemed similarly tongue-tied in the aftermath of the National Organization for Marriage’s letter to 150 Minnesota corporations “advising” them to stay neutral in the marriage debate. Did I say advised? More like threatened: “We are watching carefully,” the letter stated.

When it took about five minutes for Minnesota corporate giant General Mills to say “meh” and ignore their ransom note, the pro-amendment forces had predictable tantrums but, as of yet, there is no big Cheerios boycott.  And does anyone believe they would be demanding neutrality of Fortune 500 companies if they thought any would be coming out on their side of the debate?

Although they look weak and reactive, we mustn’t be complacent. Beating back this amendment will be historic, and it will take an epic effort.  North Carolina recently became the 31st state to hand a victory to those pushing state constitutional bans and same-sex marriage.  So why won’t Minnesota become number 32?

I’ll give you three reasons: 1. Our side is for the first time making a religious-freedom argument, and they don’t know quite how to respond. 2. There is no longer a clear partisan divide on marriage attitudes, and time is our friend. 3. The pro-amendment forces are using a cookie-cutter playbook, while our side is engaged in an unprecedented statewide conversation.

1. Whose religious freedom?

In one of their “Marriage Minutes,” Minnesotans for (Limiting) Marriage asks, “Shouldn’t churches be free to define their own religious marriages but stay out of how civil marriage is decided?” and then answers its own question:

“No. It is impossible to have two societal definitions of marriage, one that is recognized by churches and one that is recognized by government.”

The problem this argument has in Minnesota, however, is that our side of the debate is not ceding the religious argument.  Headlines like “Religious Leaders Unite to Oppose the Marriage Amendment” – describing an event that brought together over 100 clergy of different faiths proclaiming that they oppose the amendment, “because of our faith, not in spite of it”– must be giving our opponents night sweats.

For the first time a campaign to defeat a marriage-limiting amendment has faith organizing at its center. People of faith here are saying, “Wait a minute — I get that your faith may not want to bless same-sex unions — but mine does. The status quo limits my freedom of religion. And now you want to put your religious interpretation in the Constitution?”

So what happens to your argument — that you can’t have “one” definition of marriage recognized by churches and one recognized by government — if churches and congregations don’t even agree among themselves?

People of faith in Minnesota are making a very Minnesota argument: you stay out of my church, I’ll stay out of yours.

2. The effort to put the amendment on the ballot was partisan, but the fight to defeat it is not

I’ve had the opportunity on several occasions to debate the marriage amendment on local television shows up against Republican opponents.  The first time, on TPT’s Almanac, one of the Republicans on the political panel assured us that “he has friends in homosexual relationships.” (No, to the best of my knowledge, he had not just stepped out of a time machine.)

Two other times, a funny thing has happened as soon as the camera is turned off and the studio lights go down. Once, after passionately arguing that money from gay groups outside the state would be pouring in to our state, once the cameras were off, one former legislator said, not quite under her breath, “I hate this amendment.”

Another time, another Republican – also, as soon as the segment wrapped – asked me and the host, “Did I sound like I support the amendment? Because I don’t.” He hadn’t sounded like he supported it: he hadn’t sounded like he opposed it either,  but still, his internal conflict was obvious and real.

The Republican Party, which for years pushed these amendments to turn out base voters, is no longer united in its opposition to same-sex marriage. Minnesota’s campaign to defeat the amendment has prominent Republicans on its steering committee, including E. Wheelock Whitney, who has led fundraising efforts among Republicans, and Tim Kelly, the Republican Assistant House Majority leader and one of four Republicans in the House who voted against putting the Amendment on the ballot.

Even nationally, Republicans are, in the words of President Obama, “evolving.”

3. The national conversation over marriage is evolving dramatically, and the campaign to defeat the amendment reflects that

Why the Republican evolution? Because the culture is demanding it.

One prominent GOP pollster recently sounded the alarm to the party faithful. Attitudes about same-sex marriage are changing dramatically among all voting groups and party affiliations, and they are changing at an accelerated rate.  In a memo to party leaders, the pollster writes:

“Support for same sex marriage has been growing and in the last few years support has grown at an accelerated rate with no sign of slowing down. A review of public polling shows that up to 2009 support for gay marriage increased at a rate of 1% a year. Starting in 2010 the change in the level of support accelerated to 5% a year.”

Minnesotans United for All Families has launched a massive, statewide, grassroots effort to move one on one conversations about marriage.  Young people are saying to their parents and grandparents, “Look, I know we might not see eye to eye on this right now — but my friends don’t feel the way your generation did.  If you vote yes, you are stopping a conversation that we’re still having. Don’t stop the conversation.”

Yesterday’s fundraising numbers — the one that the p.o. box in Roseville didn’t want to comment on — shows good news for our side.  Minnesotans United outraised our opponents, reporting $4.6 million raised from 19,000 individual donors, 90% of whom are from Minnesota. While Minnesotans for Marriage reported raising $1.4 million, we know from the experience of other states that their side swoops in with tons of cash in the final weeks to put up horrible, divisive ads to scare voters into thinking that voting no will be step one in the coming Apocalypse.

If we continue to do the work we’re doing, I am confident that by the November comes and those ads are up in the air, Minnesotans will overwhelmingly decide to vote NO and say that we’re not stopping the conversation. And we’re not limiting the freedom to marry.

Te lo Dije: According to the Post, Marco Rubio not being vetted for V.P.

19 Jun

Did I not say, when it comes to Romney VP picks, Incredibly Boring White Guys, Get in Line?

Today the Washington Post is reporting that Mr. Dream Act Lite is not being seriously vetted by the Romney campaign.

While some like Chris Cillizza argued that the VP fortunes of el senador de Florida had risen as a result of Mr. Obama’s dramatic announcement last Friday of a change in immigration policy, I have thought that to be non-sensical.  (Cillizza has re-considered his analysis as of today’s report). The Administration essentially enacted Rubio’s imaginary Diet Dream Act (he never actually wrote a bill) last week with the stroke of a pen. After that, what does Mr. Rubio actually offer a Romney ticket? A reminder to the Latino community that he and the GOP still oppose a real, permanent solution – a path to citizenship for undocumented people?

A favorite in conservative straw polls, Marco Rubio can make the cover of the National Review but apparently not the Romney vetting machine.

Of course, in the end, things could change and maybe the Romney team could end up picking Rubio, who they say today they are not vetting.

One can Dream — the last time the GOP picked a Lightly Vetted V.P. Candidate things got way fun.

So whose VP fortunes are rising? 

According to the Post, at the top of the list is Minnesota’s own Tim Pawlenty, who is being described today by an unnamed Romney advisor not as an Incredibly Boring White Guy but rather an “an incredible warrior.”


The guy who fled from the presidential campaign the second he was embarrassed in the Iowa Straw Poll by Michele Bachmann, the Congresswoman from Minnesiowa?

Incredible Indeed.