When the clock strikes midnight tonight, it will mark more than simply the start of a new year for some couples in Maryland — it’s also when Maryland’s new marriage equality law officially takes effect. Some same-sex weddings are already planned for the first moments of 2013.
Since New Year’s Day is a government holiday, courthouses across Maryland are closed. But that didn’t stop Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) from taking steps to ensure that same-sex couples won’t have to wait any longer for marriage equality. Rawlings-Blake will open Baltimore’s city hall tonight to allow at least seven same-sex couples to get married, and the mayor plans to serve as an official witness for the wedding ceremonies:
“New Years Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
“It is a remarkable achievement for Maryland, and we are excited to open City Hall to host some of the first wedding ceremonies in our great state. Newly married couples will stand before their friends and family to profess their love and commitment to each other. This is what we worked for, and I am looking forward to take part in this historic and jubilant day.”
The first couple to be married at City Hall will be a longtime aide to the mayor and his partner of 35 years. And even though the courthouses in other Maryland cities may not be open, the early marriage licenses that some same-sex couples in the state were able to begin applying for in December will become official at midnight tonight.
The Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law that remains one of the biggest obstacles to marriage equality today, has lost another supporter, this time a GOPer swept into Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010.
Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) announced in a statement late last week that he has signed onto the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill to repeal DOMA. Since its passage in 1996, DOMA has defined marriage on a federal level as between one man and one woman, purposefully excluding gay and lesbian couples. DOMA also denies gay people who have legally wed in their states countless federal benefits and protections, such as Social Security survivor benefits if one partner dies.
However, the 16-year-old discriminatory law could be in its waning days. Though President Bill Clinton had signed the law, most Democrats now oppose it, and are gaining momentum in bringing Republicans on board. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) already opposes DOMA, and now Hanna becomes the 2nd GOPer to pull his support, as he detailed in an announcement Friday:
“New York State allows all its citizens the freedom to marry the person they love,” he said. “Under the Tenth Amendment, the federal government has a Constitutional responsibility to respect New York’s right to set its own laws. It’s my job to see that it does.
“It is right to extend equal protection under federal law to all couples who are legally married without infringing upon religious freedom and beliefs,” Hanna continued. “This legislation does not tell states who can be married or who must be treated as married, nor does it require any religious institution to violate their own convictions.
“I respect the deeply held beliefs on both sides of this issue,” he said. “The simple fact remains that the federal government has a responsibility to ensure all legally married couples are treated equally under federal law – and this bill would achieve that proper standard.”
An increasing number of Republicans are coming out in favor of equality. Perhaps most surprising is Newt Gingrich, a man who as Speaker in 1996 ushered in passage of DOMA, but reversed course last week and argued that Republicans should accept marriage equality. “The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality,” said Gingrich.
Still, the entire debate in Congress over DOMA may be academic if the Supreme Court strikes it down next year. It will hear a challenge to DOMA in the first quarter of 2013 and issue a ruling in June.
The ThinkProgress team is off this week, but the Pride is here to keep you updated on LGBT stories until we resume our full posting schedule after New Year’s.
- Wisconsin domestic partnerships ruled constitutional. A Wisconsin appeals court has ruled that the state’s same-sex domestic partnership law does not violate the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, upholding a lower court’s decision.
- Transgender prisoner awarded legal fees in fight for surgery. U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf has approved a request for Massachusetts to reimburse the lawyers of transgender inmate Michelle Kosilek $724,000 for fighting for her right to doctor-prescribed gender-reassignment surgery. (Catch up on Kosilek’s story here.)
- Fort Bragg Military Spouses group still refuses to accept lesbian wife. A meeting with the leadership of Fort Bragg proved to serve as only another delay tactic to prevent Ashley Broadway from participating in the Officers’ Spouses group because her spouse is of the same-sex. (See our past coverage here and here.)
- Anti-trans Miss USA contestant owes $5 million for defamation. In June, Miss Pennsylvania USA, Sheena Monnin, gave up her crown in protest that transgender contestants were allowed to participate in the Miss USA pageant. Afterwards, she claimed the contest was rigged, so Donald Trump sued her for defamation. An arbitrator has ruled that she must pay $5 million for her remarks.
- A senior Roman Catholic Bishop in the UK will use his Christmas sermon to compare marriage equality advocates to Hitler and Stalin.
- The Ninth Circuit has ruled that San Diego is not violating the law by offering low-cost rental space to the Boy Scouts of America, despite the organization’s discriminatory policies against gays and atheists.
At his annual Christmas speech to the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI called same-sex marriage a “manipulation of nature” to be deplored and an attack on the “essence of the human creature.”
It was the second time this week that Benedict took aim at marriage equality:
People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.
The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned.
Benedict has repeatedly condemned same-sex marriage as “defection in human nature” that bears an “immense human and economic cost.” Most recently, he used his World Day of Peace message to claim that marriage equality presents a “serious harm to justice and peace.”
An LGBT activist pushes back on arguments about 'religious freedom.'
Beyond the so-called “fiscal cliff,” Congress has a number of other important items on its agenda before packing up for the holidays. This includes voting on the National Defense Authorization Act, a critical piece of legislation that outlines the military budget and approves defense expenditures for Fiscal Year 2014. With respect to this bill, most members of Congress have rightly focused on funding the programs and initiatives that preserve our security and care for our troops. However, instead of working to pass the single most important bill to our military, anti-gay Republicans have spent the year playing politics with our national security by inserting irrelevant amendments in the defense bill that are squarely aimed at rolling back the military’s strides toward LGBT equality following “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
Earlier this year, Congressman Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) succeeded in including a harmful and anti-gay “conscious clause” in the House version of the defense bill. If the Akin Provision were to be included in the NDAA in its entirety, it would give service members the legal right to discriminate, harass, and intimidate LGB troops. And in doing so it would pose a danger to troops’ health and safety, it would undermine unit cohesion, and — as the White House has stated — it would be a threat to the good order and discipline necessary for military effectiveness. Luckily, the Senate version of the bill did not include this harmful provision.
As the House and Senate began to reconcile the differences between the two bills, Congressman Akin and other Republicans, including Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), have pushed to include Akin’s “license to discriminate” provision in the final version. McCain was, of course, a fierce opponent of DADT repeal. McKeon said that he’d rather see Congress fail to pass a defense bill for the first time in a half century than pass a bill that failed into include anti-gay amendments.
In the reconciled version of the Pentagon bill, Congress has sadly retained the Akin amendment, though not in its entirety. What remains is a watered down version which reaffirms the right of troops and chaplains to hold anti-gay views as long as they are not actively discriminating against LGB service members. In other words, the amended Akin provision simply reiterates existing religious liberty protections that service members and chaplains already enjoy.
While Congressman Akin’s amendment did not survive as originally written, let’s be clear. Congressman Akin’s original “conscious clause” provision was not about protecting the religious liberty of service members or chaplains. It is instead about giving people in the military a legal right to discriminate, harass, and intimidate service members based on their sexual orientation.
We’ve seen this before. In the states, conservative groups are vociferously calling for a weakening of nondiscrimination, relationship recognition, adoption, and other laws all in the name of “religious liberty.” When a restaurant owner refuses to serve a patron because he or she is old, black, or Christian, we would never call that an affront to religious freedom. We would call it discrimination, plain and simple. The same is true for gay individuals as well.
In this way, anti-gay initiatives are increasingly being cloaked in arguments about “religious freedom.” That is because opponents of LGBT equality have seen the polls and know that strong majorities of Americans are now accepting of LGBT people. By working to insert “conscious clauses” into laws, they are hoping to slow down the inevitable march toward fairness for all. Going into 2013, advocates must be on the lookout for these attempts to undermine LGBT equality, and call them out for what they are: discriminatory, unfair, and wrong.
São Paulo, Brazil Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage |
The state of São Paulo, Brazil, has legalized same-sex marriage, having updated its registration rules in accordance with a decision by the Brazilian Supreme Court. Previously, same-sex couples had to obtain a court order before they could obtain a marriage license. Even foreigners can now obtain a marriage visa, which is much easier to obtain than the civil unions visa that previously was allowed.
By Kellan Baker, Guest Blogger on Dec 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm
Today the Institute of Medicine released a new report, Collecting Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data in Electronic Health Records. This report is a summary of a one-day workshop on LGBT data collection held at the IOM in October 2012, and it presents a variety of viewpoints on collecting these data in health care settings. Ultimately, these viewpoints converge on a common principle: collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data is a crucial component of making sure that LGBT people are getting the health care they need.
The workshop featured 19 presentations from experts in LGBT data collection, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services, providers at the forefront of efforts to appropriately collect and use these data in health care settings, health information technology vendors, and LGBT health advocates. The report compiles these presentations, along with comments from attendees and discussions following each presentation, into five chapters:
Clinical reasons to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity, both from a population perspective and as it applies to an individual’s health care, along with personal stories illustrating the barriers and discrimination that LGBT people experience in health care settings.
The role of the federal government in developing methods for collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data in electronic health records and ensuring patient privacy and confidentiality.
Describing the experiences of several health care systems in developing and implementing questions on sexual orientation and gender identity and incorporating the data in electronic health records.
Issues involved in developing standardized questions for collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity and examples of questions that have been field tested and deployed in actual clinical settings.
Comments from participants and final observations on themes that arose during the workshop.
Among the comments were some from the Center for American Progress’s perspective, which cautioned against entering a new regime of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in health care and noted that we do not have to choose between preparing patients to disclose their sexual orientation and gender identity and training providers and health staff to elicit this information — we can do both. CAP also emphasized that those working to advance efforts to improve LGBT data collection in clinical encounters need to stay focused on both the training component and the data collection component, so that we arrive at a place where providers know that they should ask and patients feel like they can tell.
Other themes that arose from the workshop and that are summarized in the report include the following:
LGBT people experience significant health care disparities, and the Obama administration and HHS are committed to identifying and addressing those disparities through the use of data.
To address health care disparities in the LGBT population, it is important to identify and understand the barriers that these Americans face and to determine if nondiscrimination policies meant to eliminate those barriers are truly protecting LGBT individuals when they seek health care in real-world settings.
“If you are not counted, you do not count.” The health of every individual depends on disclosing sexual orientation and gender identity, so it is important to educate LGBT people about the need for them to self-identify while at the same time creating a safe environment conducive for doing so.
In addition to technical issues about the questions they need to ask their patients, health care providers have their own fears and biases that will require a significant amount of education to address, both on an individual and institutional level.
Employee resource groups in an institution can become a powerful and important internal force of change.
The use of language in questions about sexual orientation or identity and gender identity is becoming more precise, and that will improve the quality of the resulting data collected using these questions.
It is important as a matter of principle that data is always collected through a self-identification process and that there is always an opt-out option available to patients.
In a stunning reversal, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said this week that he thinks his party needs to “accommodate and deal with reality” and get on board with legal equality for same-sex couples. Gingrich, who pushed the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) through Congress in 1996, has been one of the nation’s most consistent opponents of marriage equality.
On gay marriage, meanwhile, Gingrich argued that Republicans could no longer close their eyes to the course of public opinion. While he continued to profess a belief that marriage is defined as being between a man and a woman, he suggested that the party (and he himself) could accept a distinction between a “marriage in a church from a legal document issued by the state” — the latter being acceptable.
“I think that this will be much more difficult than immigration for conservatism to come to grips with,” he said, noting that the debate’s dynamics had changed after state referenda began resulting in the legalization of same-sex marriage. “It is in every family. It is in every community. The momentum is clearly now in the direction in finding some way to … accommodate and deal with reality. And the reality is going to be that in a number of American states — and it will be more after 2014 — gay relationships will be legal, period.”
Noting that his own openly-lesbian half-sister works for the Human Rights Campaign and that he has gay friends who have married legally in Iowa, Gingrich observed, “I didn’t think that was inevitable 10 or 15 years ago, when we passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It didn’t seem at the time to be anything like as big a wave of change as we are now seeing.”
Minnesota Legislators To Push Marriage Equality In Early 2013 |
After Minnesotans solidly defeated a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage last month and voted out the state House and Senate Republican majorities who placed the proposal on the ballot, pro-LGBT state legislators plan to push a marriage equality bill in early 2013. Rep. Alice Hausman and Sen. John Marty, both Democratic Farm Labor party members (Minnesota’s Democratic Party) told the Star News, given the clear voter mandate for equality, they will push for the bill to be enacted before Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) issues his February budget forecast. While the incoming legislative leadership has not yet endorsed such a push, Dayton has pledged to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control estimates that even though the total number of Americans living with HIV steadily increased between 1980 and 2010, the rise is partly due to the fact that treatment programs are helping HIV-positive individuals live longer and healthier lives. Overall, new HIV infections have not increased, and the CDC estimates that prevention efforts have averted more than 350,000 cases of infection to date. Unfortunately, that good news doesn’t hold true for every community once the data is broken down by specific demographics.
The HIV epidemic is still disproportionately impacting the LGBT community — particularly men who have sex with men (MSM), who accounted for nearly two-thirds of all new infections in 2010. And the CDC reported last month that young people between the ages of 13 and 24 aren’t getting the message about HIV testing and treatment, despite the recent public education campaigns on the topic, which may be why the number of new HIV infections among MSM in that age group increased 22 percent from 2008 to 2010:
And gains in HIV treatment are also racially stratified, as African-American men continue to bear the biggest burden. Although the cases of new HIV infections among African-American women did decline between 2008 and 2010, black women still accounted for nearly two-thirds of all new infections among women in 2010. Nearly 90 percent of those women contracted the virus from heterosexual sex. Altogether, the rate of HIV infection for black Americans is about eight times higher than the rate for white Americans:
Fortunately, the U.S. made big strides toward combating HIV over the past year, a time period that is not reflected in the CDC’s new report. Breakthroughs in HIV research and drugs may help ensure that HIV-positive individuals’ life expectancy is extended even further, and the health reform law will help ensure that HIV testing and treatment is affordable for Americans who may have previously gone without it. The next time the CDC runs the numbers, there may be even more good news to report, even for typically hard-hit demographic groups.
Ugandan Anti-Gay Pastor Uses Fruit To Explain How Same-Sex Couples Have Sex |
Ugandan evangelical Christian pastor Martin Ssempa is well known for his obsession with how he thinks same-sex couples have sex, notably his graphic description of how gay men engage in “anal licking”: “they eat the poo poo.” He has used these audacious presentations to advocate for the “Kill the Gays” Anti-Homosexuality bill since its introduction several years ago. Ssempa appeared this week on the Ugandan TV talk show Morning Breeze where he used various fruits and vegetables to describe how lesbians have sex, because “they don’t have the equipment.” LGBT activist Pepe Onziema, who identifies as a trans man, objected to having to appear on the same show as as a “hooligan.” Watch the inflammatory display: Read more
POLL: Majority Oppose Openly Gay Boy Scout Leaders |
Gallup was ranked as one of the least accurate polling firms in the 2012 election, but a new survey presents an astonishingly disappointing result even if it is skewed. According to the poll, only 42 percent of voters believe openly gay adults should be allowed to serve as leaders for the Boy Scouts of America, while 52 percent stand opposed. Even among Democrats, support only reached 60 percent. Other LGBT questions had more positive responses, including inheritance rights for gay couples (78 percent support), health insurance and employee benefits for gay couples (77 percent), and even adoption rights for gay couples (61 percent). It’s unclear what informs the bias against Scout leaders, but the result does not bode well for public awareness about the basics of LGBT identities.
A group of conservative organizations based in Illinois have banded together to oppose efforts to pass marriage equality there. Because of the success of marriage equality efforts in other states, high polling on the issue, and the popularity of civil unions, state lawmakers may take up the issue as soon as January’s lame-duck session. The new coalition of opposition is calling itself the “Coalition to Protect Children and Marriage,” and includes the Eagle Forum of Illinois, Catholic Citizens of Illinois, the Thomas More Law Center, and the Illinois Family Institute. The IFI has been classified as a hate group for its anti-LGBT rhetoric, and its Director, David Smith, has more to offer:
SMITH: Government did not create marriage. It merely recognizes and promotes this type of relationship that exists and which protects the rights and serves the best interests of children and, therefore, of society. Research has consistently demonstrated that children fare best when raised, whenever possible, by their biological parents. The state has a vested interest in promoting this institution because it provides the ideal environment in which to raise the next generation of healthy and productive members of society.
Studies have debunked claims that children fare any differently with same-sex parents than with opposite-sex parents, but IFI has no problem clinging to this myth. Smith’s comments are offensive to all adoptive parents, including those who are heterosexual. Besides, Illinois same-sex couples are already raising children, and marriage will help those families. This coalition has made it clear it will rely on the old tropes of procreation to make their case, which suggests they will not be very effective at swaying opinion.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins never misses an opportunity to defame the LGBT community while painting conservative Christians as victims, and his latest exploit may signify a petty new low for the hate group. In his Washington Watch Daily Radio Commentary on Monday, Perkins defended the Salvation Army for being anti-gay and claimed that the LGBT community is selfish and only targets the organization because it’s Christian:
The Salvation Army does a lot for America, but don’t expect a ringing endorsement from homosexuals. Hello, I’m Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C. Gay activists will be putting a little something in the red kettle this year-but it won’t be money. They’re asking people to drop in complaints instead because the Salvation Army has a biblical view of sexuality.
Despite decades of community service, activists say those kettles are pushing an anti-gay agenda. Nothing could be future from the truth says Major George Hood. You don’t have to be straight to get help from the Salvation Army, he explained. Not a single “policy, practice, or program” even asks about sexual orientation. “The very mission of the Salvation Army calls for meeting the needs of humans without discrimination.”
The truth is, homosexuals are only targeting the Salvation Army because it’s Christian. And they’d rather help their agenda than the needy. Do your part to help the Salvation Army-because far too many families are saved by their bells.
LGBT bloggers Bil Browning and John Aravosis have thoroughly cataloged the Salvation Army’s anti-gay record. Major Hood, Perkins’ ringing endorsement for LGBT-inclusion, defended the notion of discriminating against gay employees in 2001 because “it really begins to chew away at the theological fabric of who we are.” The Church has hidden its position statement on homosexuality, claiming it’s “Under Review,” but it previously believed the following:
Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primary or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life. There is no scriptural support for same sex unions as equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual marriage.
Seeking special protection to not hire gay employees and condemning gays to a life without love is hardly a good record “without discrimination.” That’s not to say the Salvation Army doesn’t accomplish good works, just like many other organizations that engage in charity but have anti-gay policies, like the Boy Scouts of America. But these are clearly groups that reinforce stigma against gay people and actively engage in discrimination, so it’s perfectly reasonable for LGBT activists to suggest supporting organizations that don’t instead. To suggest that this has anything to do with an attack on religion or an aversion to charity is a ghastly ad hominem attack against the LGBT community. It’s as absurd as suggesting that opposition to Chick-fil-A is based on hatred for fried chicken. What’s at stake is a basic level of respect for people’s lives, and it’s outlandish for Perkins to claim that groups (like his) who have none are somehow victims.
As the global health community makes significant strides toward effectively combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, HIV-positive individuals are now living longer and healthier lives, largely thanks to advances in treatments for the virus. Research suggests that the virus itself is hardly a death sentence anymore — and, for HIV-positive people, other public health issues are beginning to surpass their HIV status as the biggest threat to their life expectancy.
According to a new study, health complications resulting from smoking — and not from HIV itself — are actually the biggest cause of death among HIV-positive individuals. Researchers tracked HIV-positive people with access to highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART), the medications that have drastically lowered the rates of HIV-related deaths since they first became available in 1996, and found stark differences between the smokers and non-smokers who received HAART treatment:
In a large case-control study, smokers with HIV had substantially higher rates of all-cause and non-AIDS mortality than HIV-positive nonsmokers, according to Marie Helleberg, MD, of Copenhagen University Hospital, and colleagues. [...]
The bottom line, Helleberg said in a statement, is that “more than 60% of deaths among HIV patients are associated with smoking,” compared with slightly more than a quarter associated with HIV.
In the general population, Helleberg and colleagues noted, smoking is one of the major factors that reduce life expectancy.
Among those with HIV, the advent of highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART) has meant that lifestyle factors are increasingly affecting survival, while the mortality risk associated with the virus has diminished.
Researchers also noted that HIV-positive individuals are much more likely to smoke than the people who are not infected with the virus, potentially due to stress or socioeconomic factors. In fact, men who have sex with men — the population that remains at the greatest risk for contracting HIV — are themselves more likely to be smokers, both because of minority stress and because Big Tobacco has worked to specifically target LGBT individuals. Anti-smoking activists emphasize that the U.S. should start focusing its smoking cessation campaigns specifically on the LGBT community.
The fact that tobacco could be deadlier than HIV is yet another reason why public health resources need to be invested into anti-smoking programs. But over the past few years, states have been dedicating fewer and fewer funds to anti-tobacco programs, as budget cuts have forced those public health initiatives to be scaled back or ended altogether.
New York Mets Pitcher Apologizes For Anti-Gay Tweet |
Newly traded New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard has apologized for his anti-gay tweet. Describing it as “a little mishap on Twitter” and a “poor attempt at humor,” he apologized for “anything that was said,” adding that he hopes he didn’t offend anybody. So far, no disciplinary action has been taken against him, but the Mets say they are investigating the situation.
Welcome to The Morning Pride, ThinkProgress LGBT’s daily round-up of the latest in LGBT policy, politics, and some culture too! Here’s what we’re reading this morning, but please let us know what stories you’re following as well. Follow us all day on Twitter at @TPEquality.
Note: Today will be the last full day of coverage at ThinkProgress LGBT until after New Year’s! Thanks to all the readers for an incredible 2012!
- Workplace nondiscrimination protections may see a new push in Congress next year.
- Two new Republicans have signed on to support the Uniting American Families Act, which helps keep bi-national same-sex couples together despite the Defense of Marriage Act.
- Wyoming may take steps to recognize same-sex couples next year — or ban that recognition.
- Truth Wins Out has expanded its investigation into fraudulent “ex-gay” star couple John and Anne Paulk, and apparently, John may even identify as a gay man now.
- Some gay and bi men may be engaging in unprotected sex because they can’t find condoms that fit appropriately — close to half experienced slippage (condoms that were too big) and almost a third reported breakage (condoms that were too small.
- Liverpool soccer player Suso (Jesús Joaquín Fernández Sáez de la Torre) has been fined £10,000 (over $16,000) for calling his teammate “gay” on Twitter for getting his teeth whitened.
- Russia has delayed debate about a bill banning “promotion of homosexuality propaganda” until 2013.
- The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago has secretly confided a promise to end the country’s discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Defense Budget Advances With Watered-Down ‘License To Bully’ Provision | As expected, the defense budget bill has advanced out of conference with a watered-down version of Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) “license to bully” amendment, which protects anti-gay servicemembers from discipline. According to the Washington Blade, the new version of the “conscience protections” clarifies that actions and speech can still be disciplined, but anti-gay beliefs themselves cannot be used to justify adverse personnel actions. The precise new language has not yet been made public. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) says the language was unnecessary because beliefs are already protected, but doesn’t believe the change will have negative consequences.
Election Day in Florida became a nightmare due to several changes to election law, resulting in marathon lines and more provisional ballots. Now that the election is over, Florida Republicans are beginning to admit the mess was intended to suppress votes.
State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-FL) and GOP chair of Alachua County, Stafford Jones, cooked up one of Florida’s many new laws specifically to keep college students from voting in the 2012 election. The vote-suppressing measures were inspired by the 2010 victory of Gainesville’s first openly gay mayor, Craig Lowe, which Republicans claim was stolen by Florida college students.
Baxley’s law prevented people from voting if they did not change their address a month before Election Day. Many of the people affected were college students or young people who were moving for a new job. Jones explained this vote suppression was intentional and accused liberals of bringing in students to swing the election:
Baxley said Jones told him that voters from Tampa and other cities shifted their voter registrations to Gainesville for a day to vote in the city’s 2010 mayoral election in which Craig Lowe became the city’s first openly gay mayor by a 42-vote margin.
“It wasn’t right for people to move in and steal an election like that,” Baxley said.
Jones said he wanted the county transfer provision to keep college students from voting.
“The liberals do a good job of bringing in college kids to vote on local issues,” Jones said. “The kids vote on raising our taxes, but don’t have to live here to pay the consequences.”
Jones said he has no proof to support his claim, only recollections of liberal blog posts that people were moving to vote.
Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida, one of the most diverse universities in the nation. College students tend to hold more liberal views, and favored President Obama by 30 percent this year. Disenfranchisement of students is a tried and true Republican tactic. During the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) in June, election officials ruled that some student IDs were not eligible for voting and passed a law that made it harder for Wisconsin students to claim residency in the state.
Beyond hijinks at the local level, the Florida GOP admitted soon after the election that the goal of these new laws was always to keep Democratic voters away from the polls. Their efforts at voter suppression succeeded; the number of provisional ballots jumped an average of 25 percent in each county from last year.