Posts Tagged With: civil rights

GOP and the Religious Wrong


Just when did the Republican Party become a religious organization? I am disgusted by anti-gay statements made by Republican candidates for the top elected office in the United States. These candidates are using religious-based bigotry to play on the public’s fears in an effort to garner votes from the religious right. Since when is it OK to demonize a class of people in the United States, vowing to strip away civil rights?

Barry Goldwater – Republican Senator from Arizona tried to warn us about this public threat in a speech to the US Senate in 1981.

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.
I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Goldwater issued another warning in 1994 , as quoted in John W. Dean’s book Conservatives Without Conscience:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

That time has come. Republicans using the name of God have declared war on gay Americans, vowing to repeal all marriage equality laws stating that gay Americans can be cured despite the fact that being gay is not an illness. We have Republican Presidential candidates like Rick Santorum wanting to reinstate the military’s failed DADT policy. Santorum who never served his country in the military, stated the repeal of the policy was “detrimental to soldiers”.  The Republican pseudo-religious group calling themselves the Family Research Council stated that repealing DADT would cause 30% of the military forces to leave the military.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The repeal of the policy has had absolutely no effect, other than to finally end the discrimination against gays and lesbians who serve.

The Family Research Council is listed as a HATE GROUP by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of their anti-gay rhetoric that uses false information to persuade political opinion such as linking gay men to pedophilia and pushing to criminalize gay behavior.  The actions of this group are not unlike those exhibited in Nazi Germany who criminalized, warehoused and executed gays and Jews in World War II.

The Family Research Council isn’t really pro-family as much as it is anti-gay. The FRC awarded Republican Representative Joe Walsh with a pro-family award despite the fact that the deadbeat dad owed $117,000 in unpaid child support to his ex-wife.

With each day that passes, more Americans are beginning to understand how the Bible was misused in the past to bolster personal prejudices and fears in trying to control the masses. It was used to enforce slavery, to prevent interracial marriage and to treat women as second class citizens. Today the minority target is gay Americans. It is NOT OK to bring these beliefs into the political arena. The Separation Clause of the 1st Amendment was interpreted by the US Supreme Court as prohibiting  the same.

Attempting to legitimize this type of bigotry against gay Americans in the name of religious teachings also has a detrimental affect on children in today’s society, giving them a reason to bully others who are gay.

New York State legalized same-sex marriage last year and previously instituted legislation to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in the form of the Hate Crimes Act of 2000. In 2003 the term sexual orientation was added to the NYS Human Rights Act which among other things, prohibits discrimination in job hiring, public accommodation and housing.

Under NYS Education Law, the Dignity for all Students Act becomes effective July 1, 2012. This anti-bullying law states in part:

§  12. Discrimination and harassment prohibited. 1. No student shall be subjected to harassment by employees or students on school property or at a school function;  nor shall  any  student be subjected to discrimination based on a person’s  actual  or  perceived race, color, weight, national origin, ethnic  group, religion, religious practice, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or sex by school employees or students on school property or at a school function.

Gay Americans have faced discrimination and adversity for far to long to have these civil rights (yes they are civil rights protected by the 14th Amendment) stripped away by Republican wannabes wearing religion on their sleeves.

Categories: Family, Human Rights, Media, Politics | Tags: , , , ,

The Tonko Letter


Today I received a response from Congressman Paul D. Tonko supporting Marriage Equality and LGBT rights.

The original response can be downloaded here: Tonko Letter

June 23, 2011

Dear Mr. Skrocki,

Thank you for contacting me with your support for same-sex marriage. Your correspondence is highly valuable, and I appreciate your sentiments.

Currently, same-sex marriages may be performed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia. New York, Rhode Island and Maryland have laws recognizing same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. I believe marriage is a civil right and it is wrong to deny gay and lesbian couples this right. A marriage conveys hundreds of legal rights and privileges that unmarried couples cannot exercise, from inheritance to hospital visitation. Denying same-sex couples these rights is equivalent to not guaranteeing them equal protection under the law.

While marriage is an issue left to the states to decide, I hope that every state will one day provide same-sex couples with full marriage rights. Every individual should have the right to marry whomever he or she loves and to have that marriage officially recognized. It is important to recognize that this is not a religious issue; a marriage is a contract in the eyes of the law, and it is not right to deny same-sex couples the right to enter into these contracts. As you may know, the Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and ensure respect for state regulation of marriage. You will be happy to know that I am an original cosponsor of this important piece of legislation. I remain a strong advocate for recognizing the right of same-sex couples to marry and have also cosponsored legislation to recognize committed same-sex partnerships similarly to marriage for immigration purposes.

In late February 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it no longer deems the Defense of Marriage Act constitutional and is directing the Justice Department to stop defending the law in federal court. This decision follows two lawsuits filed in November 2010 by individuals who claim the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by denying them various federal benefits.

In addition to the fight for marriage rights, we must work together to wipe out discrimination of all kinds based on sexual orientation and gender identity. For this reason, I am a strong supporter of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which establishes a comprehensive Federal prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. By extending the existing federal ban on discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity, we ensure that American businesses hire and retain the very best and brightest employees to keep our economy strong and competitive on a global scale. I have also supported legislation to repeal the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and to expand hate crimes legislation to cover crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

These and other pieces of LGBT legislation make a strong statement affirming American values of justice and personal freedom. Please be assured that I will continue to fight on behalf of our LGBT community for equal treatment under the law.

For up-to-date news and information about our district, please visit my website at http://tonko.house.gov and sign up for my E-Newsletter. Additionally, please consider using my social media tools: http://www.facebook.com/reppaultonko, http://twitter.com/paultonko,and http://www.youtube.com/reppaultonko.

Sincerely,
Paul D. Tonko
MEMBER OF CONGRESS

Categories: Law, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Marriage Equality in New York State


I have debated whether to post this topic on my blog, finally deciding it was much too important of an issue to remain silent about. For those few that may not have known, I am gay. Normally I feel no need to advertise this aspect of my life because it does not totally define who I am as a person, but once stated is often the only aspect people will take from the conversation. I mention it now because I am affected by the outcome of the Marriage Equality proposition in New York State.

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo urges everyone to contact their State Legislators and tell them to vote YES on marriage equality.

This is the inspirational speech that helped pass the City of Troy’s resolution supporting Marriage Equality

I did as the Governor requested, contacting both Assemblyman George Amedore and Senator Hugh Farley. I received no response from the Senator and the following from the Assemblyman:

May 26, 2011

Dear Gerald,

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the current directive for gay marriage. As your representative, it is important to hear from constituents I represent, as their correspondence helps me make more informed decisions.

As you know, the bill A.7600 would change the definition of “marriage” in New York State and thereby authorize same-sex marriage. Altering the definition of marriage would open access to civil benefits and protections previously unafforded to same-sex couples. As legislators continue to discuss the issue in Albany, I will be sure to share your concerns with my colleagues in the Assembly.

Thank you again for your correspondence. If I can ever be of assistance to you in the future, or if you would like to discuss this matter further, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Sincerely,

George Amedore
Member of Assembly
105th Assembly District

On June 2, 2011 the Troy City Council passed a resolution urging the legalization of Marriage Equality to our State Legislators with the unanimous vote of 9-0. The resolution was introduced by Troy City Councilman Ken Zalewski who has taken the initiative to make a difference for the gay community.

Would the Amsterdam City Council do the same?

The United Federation of Teachers also support Marriage Equality in New York.

“Our union prides itself on a diverse membership and as a champion of equality we believe that it is time for all New Yorkers to be treated equally,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “This is a civil rights issue and we are calling on New York State’s Legislature to pass marriage equality legislation and give all New Yorkers the right to marry the person they love.”

As Governor Cuomo stated, this is NOT a religious issue, it is a Civil Rights issue. Gay couples are denied over 700 State rights and 1000 Federal rights enjoyed by married couples. Currently Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and the District of Columbia have made Marriage Equality a reality in the United States.  My personal experience tells me that discrimination still thrives in this Country despite noble efforts to eradicate it.

Billboard on 787 in Albany, NY paid for by Bombers Burritos.

For more information contact the organization Freedom to Marry or the Human Rights Campaign.

Update #1:

Today I received  the following response from 4th Ward Alderman and Mayoral candidate William D. Wills:

Gerry,

With all the problems that the local level has to deal with mainly because our State leaders don’t, I always thought in the past that issues like these should be dealt with on the State level.   However, I also always thought that this particular issue should not even be one.   Whatever someone in their private lives feels is good for them should be their private matter and decision as long as it does not affect the lives and
safety of the public at large.   This issue of marriage equality surely does not pose a threat to us.

Maybe if enough local level governments pass these type of
resolutions then the State’s Legislature will act on it.   It doesn’t mean that you support gay rights but it does mean you support equality when it comes to people making decisions that may be different than the rest of us again not affecting our lives and safety.

I will venture to say that even the strongest opponent of gay
marriages has a family member or friend that is gay.   Personally the word gay is offensive to me and should be to those labeled as such.   It has assumed a bad connotation.

I can remember when physically and mentally challenged individuals were looked downed up, hidden from the general public, and never thought could be productive members of our community.   Organizations like Liberty and Lexington have changed that.   What’s the difference with someone who may like the same sex as opposed to the opposite sex?   Those that oppose marriage equality do so because I believe that they are not secure in their own beliefs and feelings.

Gerry, please forward to us a copy of the resolution that the City of Troy passed for our consideration.   We could make this an interesting side issue of this year’s campaign.

The only thing I admire of our past Vice President Dick Cheney was the love he has for his gay daughter Mary and the fact that he does not deny her existence or his love for her.   The former vice president has long offered his daughter his unrelenting love and support, and very recently came out in favor of gay marriage, saying, “I think that freedom means freedom for everyone.” I think that this underscores that a strong
conservative argument can be made in favor marriage equality.  I further think it underscores my bafflement that anyone would dare cross Cheney in this regard, because, remember what happened to his hunting buddy.

Loving someone for what they are, now that’s what equality is all about.

Alderman Wills

I appreciate any responses I receive from my elected officials and Alderman Wills has been very forthcoming with responding to my requests and inquiries.

The main point is that we need this change now.

Update #2:

Information received from Troy City Councilman Ken Zalewski:

Mr. Skrocki,

Thank you for you interest in the Resolution in Support of Marriage Equality that the Troy City Council passed unanimously at our June 2 monthly meeting.
I appreciate the sentiments that Alderman Wills offers below, especially the quip about not crossing Dick Cheney.  :-)
The full text of the resolution (as a PDF) can be found here:
In addition, the full broadcast of our Council meeting is available online at:
The public speaking portion is at the beginning (where a Reverend and a Rabbi both spoke out in support of the resolution), and the actual vote is at the end.
I hope you are able to take this up and get it passed.  It makes a strong statement about your community, and ultimately, it is simply the right thing to do.
We are on the right side of history.
            -kz

Ken Zalewski
Councilman, District 5

Update#3:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 the City of Amsterdam will introduce a resolution in support of Marriage Equality and urging our State Legislators to pass  Marriage Equality Legislation.

Mayor Ann Thane:

I would hope that the Council would support this resolution. A.

Categories: Law, Politics | Tags: , , , , ,

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