House Democrats Demand Protections For Binational Same-Sex Couples |
House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and more than 80 other House Democrats have again called upon the Obama administration to establish protections for binational same-sex couples whose relationships are not recognized under the Defense of Marriage Act. Despite previous pleas from both the House and Senate, the White House has refused to place holds or “low priority” status on the green card requests from these couples. As a result, many couples are left with a choice of leaving the country together or splitting their families across international borders. House Democrats have demanded a written policy from the administration to ensure “families will remain together.”
132 House members, led by Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD), filed an amicus brief today making a federal case against the Defense of Marriage Act’s constitutionality. The brief weighs in on the legal challenge that Karen Golinski made against DOMA when she filed a lawsuit seeking access to equal health benefits for her wife — a case that has reached the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after a federal district court ruled in Golinski’s favor and declared DOMA unconstitutional.
The congress members offer a direct challenge to the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group’s (BLAG) Republican members, who hired lawyers to defend DOMA’s constitutionality against increasing attacks in court. A release from Pelosi’s office summarizes the brief’s major arguments, including the crucial facts that BLAG does not speak for the entire House of Representatives and that DOMA directly harms American families:
Unlike most Acts of Congress, DOMA cannot be viewed as the rational result of impartial lawmaking and should be treated with judicial skepticism. The brief makes it clear that the House is not united on DOMA’s validity, that the BLAG lawyers do not speak for the entire institution, and that there is no legitimate federal interest in denying married same-sex couples the legal security, rights and responsibilities that federal law provides to couples who are married under state law. …This law affirmatively harms married gay and lesbian couples and their children.
Nadler’s leadership and the coalition of House Democrats’ support are important examples of legislators standing up for the legal rights of the LGBT community. The House of Representatives has its fair share of champions for LGBT rights, and their work has the potential to make a difference in the lives of countless families in the LGBT community who are fighting for the same rights that heterosexual couples already enjoy.
Democrats took to the House floor last night to defend President Obama’s regulation requiring employers and insurers to provide a wide range of health care benefits in their insurance plans, including contraception coverage. Houses of worship and non-profits primarily employing and serving those of the same faith are exempt from the requirement.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) made a particularly persuasive case, arguing that the federal law treats Catholic affiliated institutions like colleges, universities, and hospitals as employers and requires that they follow standard employment laws and regulations and treat all employees fairly. And while the government would never muddle in a church’s religious operations — for instance, it would never ask that it take on female priests, it would object to it turning away female doctors from its hospitals or refusing to perform a certain medical procedure that undermines the liberties of the patient.
These organizations — which receive tax benefits from the federal government — can’t discriminate in their hiring practices or general operations and they shouldn’t discriminate against sex in the coverage they offer to their employees. Here is how Nadler put it:
NADLER: The difference here is that churches are and should be protected in their religious role. Protected against having to violate their religious views. But they must not be protected in their role as employers. We permit a church, for example, to discriminate a religious practice. No one asks the Catholic Church how come you do not permit women priests, that’s their business. But we do not permit them to discriminate as employers. We do not permit a religious hospital or university to say we will not permit the hiring of female doctors or female professors or black doctors or nurses because that would impinge on liberty. [...]
The church can preach its views, it can seek to persuade people, but it cannot coerce people who may work for a church affiliated university or hospital that they may not use contraceptives if they want to. The liberty here is the liberty of the employee that must be protected. The liberty of the church must be protected in its churchly function and in its function as a religious institution. In its function as an employer, the liberty belongs to the employees and that is the distinction that is made here. It is the proper distinction.
The City has an obligation to maintain public order, but it also has an obligation to respect the right to speak, to protest, and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Apart from the requirements of the Constitution, New York City has long been home to political protests of all kinds. The City should respect that tradition, and our core constitutional values, by working with Occupy Wall Street to ensure that they may continue their important work.
Rep. Nadler Will Introduce Bill To Repeal The Debt Ceiling, ‘A Pawn For Republicans Intent On Holding The Economy Hostage’ |
In denunciation of “the current GOP-driven deficit obsession and its preclusion of government action to lift the nation out of ongoing recession,” Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) says he will introduce legislation to repeal the federal debt ceiling. Nadler said, “The debt ceiling is truly arbitrary,” adding that “the dangerous game of chicken Republican radicals played with the full faith and credit of the United States demonstrates that we can no longer risk allowing this artifact of World War I to threaten our nation’s creditworthiness.” Thus, Nadler called on Congress to “abolish the debt ceiling, which has become a serious threat to our economic future and a pawn for Republicans intent on holding the economy hostage to impose their own extreme agenda.” Nadler joins economist Bruce Bartlett, who was senior policy adviser to presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, in calling to abolish the debt ceiling.
This afternoon, President Obama delivered a much anticipated speech explaining his plan to reduce the debt in the long term. He called for $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years through cuts to discretionary spending, limiting growing health care costs, and raising $1 trillion by eliminating tax loopholes and other tax expenditures.
Many progressives have expressed concern that Obama would even consider giving such a speech, arguing that a progressive president should be focusing on job creation and investment, instead of promoting anti-stimulative spending restraint.
ThinkProgress and handful of other bloggers spoke with a number of progressive lawmakers at the Capitol this morning who expressed similar consternation with the White House and criticized the president for being too quick to concede to Republican demands during last week’s fight over funding the government. Speaking before Obama’s speech, they also expressed concern about what he would say:
REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-OR): [Asked about Obama's negotiating strategy] What strategy?! … I mean the normal thing in negotiations is, you know, I stake out my best position, my best offer, they stake out their best position, their best offer, and we end up somewhere in between. The way it’s worked so far is Republicans stake out their best position, their best offer, the president accepts it and says, ‘what else do you need?’
REP. CHELLIE PINGREE (D-ME): I think many of us who are progressive wish the president would stake out a slightly more progressive position. … I do think the president has to push back a little more on the importance of making sure we continue to make investments in this country, not eliminating the safety net, not going down the path of what the Ryan bill is doing the Medicare and Social Security.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): [Asked if he was disappointed in how Obama negotiated the CR] Yes, I was very disappointed. He stayed above it, he talked about the Democrats and the Republicans as if we were squabbling little children, squabbling over not much, which were in fact very principled things. I was particularly disappointed when he described the result as a great victory. It’s not a great victory when we cut the budget more than Republicans initially requested, from a low base. It should have been said that we made the best deal we could, but they were willing to blackmail the whole country by threatening to shut down the government, but this is not a victory.
Meanwhile, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) and MoveOn.org each launched email petitions earlier this week to pressure Obama on retaining social safety net programs. “We need the president to forcefully denounce [Ryan's] proposals, to show the American people whose side Democrats are on,” the MoveOn petition reads. “Starting negotiations by endorsing a plan that would further weaken the middle class is all wrong. But there’s still time for the president to change course.”
In his speech, Obama did forcefully denounce Ryan’s budget and his plan to “end Medicare as we know it.” “I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry,” Obama said.
This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, New York congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D) effectively dismantled the arguments of his fellow Empire State colleague Peter King (R), who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the new Islamic center project in lower Manhattan.
King argued that, while he respects Muslims’ “right” to build a new center, “they should listen to public opinion” and “should voluntarily move the mosque away from Ground Zero.” Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, explained, “We do not put the Bill of Rights…to a vote. The reason we have a Bill of Rights is that you have your religious rights…whether majorities like you or not, frankly.”
Nadler then addressed the biggest fallacy of the right-wing argument: namely, that in their opposition to the Islamic center, they are ascribing collective guilt on all Muslims for the terrorist acts of 9/11:
NADLER: [W]hat they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.
Watch a compilation:
King — who has said he thinks there are “too many mosques in this country” and is an advocate of racially profiling all Muslims — claimed that he has been a defender of Islam. But, he added, the 9/11 attack “was carried out in the name of Islam,” and therefore, the new Islamic center would simply be rubbing “salt in the wounds.”
“[O]bjecting to this mosque would be as objectionable if you wouldn’t object to a church or a synagogue in the same place because that’s blaming all Islam and you can’t blame an entire religion,” Nadler explained. He then ticked through three prominent examples of GOP hypocrisy on the “Ground Zero mosque”:
1) Nadler: “One, there is a mosque in the Pentagon, which is also hallowed ground. No one objects to that.” [Link]
2) Nadler: “Second, the people who want to build this facility, which is partially a mosque and partially a community center, have a mosque a few blocks away from there, which no one has objected to.” [Link]
3) Nadler: “I would take the sincerity of many of the Republican critics of this…if they were supporting, as Peter is, but very few other Republicans are, the bill to give health care coverage to the 9/11 heroes and responders which all but 12 Republicans voted against in the House last week.” [Link]
REP. JERROLD NADLER: Well, I think all the candidates think they’re the most qualified. I think my record in Congress is a very progressive and forward-looking record. I think I’ve shown very good judgment. I was one of the few downstate people who voted against the war, against the PATRIOT Act. I’ve taken a leadership role on civil liberties, on economic development. And I led the battle against the–I led the battle for eight years against the Bankruptcy, so-called, Reform Act of 2005, which we now recognize as probably responsible for maybe a third of the foreclosures that are going on in this country.
There’s interest, mostly for good reasons, in appointing a woman, or a Hispanic, or someone from upstate and Nadler is none of those things. But Nadler is a rock-solid progressive leader. I grew up in his district, and was always proud to have him as a representative.