Maryland

Alliance for Marriage Recruits California Latinos

After last year’s mid-term elections dimmed its hopes that a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage would pass the Congress, the D.C.-based Alliance for Marriage announced it was decamping for the field, to drum up anti-gay “caucuses” in the states. On the road to its “50-state strategy,” AFM crowed that a “Marriage Protection Caucus (TM)” was established in each of South Carolina, Maryland, and New Mexico, and its map claims several more, but it’s less clear how many actual legislators signed up in these states.

When AFM announced its “two-year plan” back in November, it also announced that it would be “deploying a diverse group of spokespersons,” claiming that its coalition was “unique and unprecedented in the degree to which it cuts across racial, cultural and religious boundary lines.” Now, AFM has begun to “deploy” Latinos, launching a California Latino Steering Committee to Protect Marriage.

AFM may have an uphill struggle recruit Latino support for an anti-gay amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A 2004 Field poll found that 57 percent of Hispanic voters in California opposed such an amendment. A 2006 poll by the Center for American Values in Public Life showed that Hispanics in the U.S. favor granting committed gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married couples in areas of hospital visitation, health insurance, and pensions by a two-to-one margin – a higher margin of support than non-Hispanics. In addition, a majority of Hispanics favor recognizing same-sex couples in either marriage or civil unions.

Other right-wing groups attacked AFM for supposedly being soft on civil unions and “counterfeit marriage,” but AFM is apparently focusing its efforts in California on a bill that would expand the rights of domestic partnerships – an act that would “erase the legal road map for marriage and the family from state law,” according to a member of AFM’s Latino committee. Nevertheless, the group’s ultimate goal remains to amend the U.S. Constitution. Speaking of efforts in some other states to erode domestic partner benefits, AFM President Matt Daniels said, "When the dust settles, we'll have a national standard for marriage. What is going on in the states is a dress rehearsal.”

Buchanan: Immigration Bill Part of New World Order Plot

Echoing other anti-immigrant politicians and activists, Pat Buchanan claims the most recent delay to Senate passage of comprehensive immigration reform is “one of the great uprisings of modern politics” in which “Middle America rose up and body-slammed the national establishment.” But he warns, in true Buchanan style, that the bill’s “authors and backers will never quit” because their real motive is the establishment of a U.S.-Mexico-Canada sovereign entity controlled by “global corporation[s] and the transnational elite” and leading, ultimately, “the death of the American republic.”

For this legislation is part of a larger agenda of a large slice of America's economic and political elite.

What is that agenda?

They have a vision of a world where not only capital and goods but people move freely across borders. Indeed, borders disappear. It is a vision of a "deep integration" of the United States, Canada and Mexico in a North American Union, modeled on the European Union and tied together by superhighways and railroads, where crossing from Mexico into the United States would be as easy as crossing from Virginia into Maryland. It is about the merger of nations into larger transnational entitles and, ultimately, global governance.

Previously, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) made the connection between the current immigration bill and the mythical “North American Union” plot. Howard Phillips –  chairman of the Conservative Caucus and at one time an influential activist on the Right – also declared the bill part of such a “dastardly scheme.” Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly has similarly tried to tie the bill to the "North American Union."

First Amendment Protection Only For Those Who Believe

After a lengthy legal battle, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Montgomery County (MD) Public Schools’ “policy for distributing fliers by community groups [via a "backpack mail" program] is unconstitutional because it gives school officials unlimited power to approve or reject materials.” 

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Child Evangelism Fellowship of Maryland, with the backing of the Alliance Defense Fund and the Christian Legal Society, after its request to distribute fliers regarding its Good News Club - which is designed to “evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living” – was rejected. 

The Circuit Court sided with Child Evangelism Fellowship, ruling [PDF] that the school district’s policy granted it “unbridled discretion to deny access to the oft-used forum — for any reason at all, including antipathy to a particular viewpoint — [and] does not ensure the requisite viewpoint neutrality.”

Around the same time, the Liberty Counsel, which is directly tied to the late Jerry Falwell and his Liberty University, sent a letter to Albemarle County School Board in Virginia, warning it that its refusal to distribute fliers about a church-sponsored vacation bible school via its own "backpack mail" program was unconstitutional.

The school district quickly changed its policy and the Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver was quite pleased:

"We're pleased the school changed its policy so quickly and correctly," says Mat Staver, Liberty Counsel founder and chairman. "The law is clear-- when schools allow the distribution of secular material, they must accommodate religious material."

Staver refers to a recent 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding a Good News Club's right to distribute fliers in Montgomery County schools in Maryland.

"They're not required to accept everything," he says, citing exemptions for libelous, obscene or pornographic material. Nor does he object if Muslim or Jewish groups want to distribute information about their events in schools. "The First Amendment is not just for the Liberty Counsel," he says. "You can't just pick and choose."

But one year later, it seems as if some on the Right are not so happy about Albemarle’s new policy now that students are bringing home fliers for a summer camp for atheists and freethinkers.

Anti-Immigrant Politics Alive and Kicking in Suburban Texas

“This sends a message loud and clear that illegal aliens are not welcome in Farmers Branch, Texas,” declared Tim O’Hare, city councilman in the Dallas suburb, after voters approved a ban on undocumented immigrants renting housing there. “We are fed up with the federal government's inaction on immigration," he said. "We are not going to wait. We are going to take care of it." O’Hare began his crusade last summer against the “less desirable people” who he said “get to come over here and live like kings and queens,” and who were driving down property values and causing shopkeepers to speak Spanish, leaving "no place for people with a good income to shop."

Farmers Branch’s ordinance is modeled on measures passed last year in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, which is waiting for a court ruling on their constitutionality.

Compared to last year’s heated immigration debate and its steady supply of headlines – ranging from the touring congressional hearings put on by Republican House members to the effects of anti-immigrant crackdowns like the one just passed in Farmers Branch – this year has been relatively calm. Supporters of comprehensive reform now control Congress, and political news has revolved around presidential candidates, with only one anti-immigrant hardliner among the many second-tier candidates. Meanwhile, both Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project are facing charges of financial mismanagement.

But as the vote in Farmers Branch shows, anti-immigrant politics remain a live wire in various parts of the country.

Meanwhile, in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Gaithersburg, Maryland, a day-laborer center was the target of a recent arson attempt. In response, local anti-immigrant group Citizens Above Party – which, we noted previously, is hardly the simple concerned-citizens operation it portrays itself as – reopened their complaints against the facility:

‘‘Why is the county executive allowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to a facility that does not check the backgrounds of who is coming through the back door?” said Susan Payne, founder of Citizens Above Party, a vocal opponent of the county’s policy to pay for the day-laborer centers. ‘‘We have no idea who these people are.”

Alliance for Marriage Recruits in Maryland Legislature

“Marriage Protection Caucus (TM)” formed to ratify federal anti-gay marriage amendment.

Anti-Immigrant Rally to Feature Tractor-Trailer Traffic Stunt?

As the Federation for American Immigration Reform and a number of radio talk-show hosts convene their anti-immigrant rally in Washington, D.C. this week, organizers were hoping to feature a convoy of truckers riding around the Beltway (Interstate 495) to protest illegal immigration and the mythical “North American Union.” The stunt, planned by bicyclist and author Frosty Wooldridge of the Save American Fund, was supposed to cause “a complete backup of traffic” by “encouraging truckers to form side-by-side convoys and circle the highway at the posted 55 mph speed limit.” A spokesman for the Maryland State Police didn’t sound too worried, saying “We have no problem with that, we want them to do the speed limit.”

Although the truckers apparently didn’t make it out today, one has to wonder about the feasibility of such an endeavor. Making it up to 55 on the Beltway during the excruciating rush hour would be impressive indeed.

'Ex-Gays' Push against Sex Ed in Maryland That Mentions Homosexuality

REAL ID Debate in Maryland Mixes 9/11, Day Laborers

Since Congress passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, which (among other things) mandates that all states require drivers prove their legal immigration status in order to get a license, several states have balked at the cost and myriad civil liberties issues stemming from the bill. Maine and Idaho have passed laws rejecting the new guidelines, and a number of other state legislatures are considering joining them, including Maryland. This week, however, the Maryland Senate debated a competing bill that would implement at least one part of the REAL ID rules – the proof of immigration status requirement. And although REAL ID was passed as part of emergency funding for the War on Terror, some are trying to refocus the debate away from civil liberties and on to anti-immigrant “quality of life” complaints. From The Washington Times:

Bill supporters told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee they were concerned about public safety and potential terrorist attacks because one of the September 11 hijackers obtained a Maryland driver's license.

"I live in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which has been in [newspapers] quite recently, and is really on its way to becoming the first authentic barrio in the county," said Susan Payne of Citizens Above Party. "The poison that's coming out of this state, known as the Maryland driver's license, has to be stopped because it's infecting the entire country."

Payne was also quoted in the Annapolis Capital, warning “You are driving people like me out of our home state.” She co-founded Citizens Above Party in response to the building of a day-laborer center in Gaithersburg, a prosperous D.C. suburb known for its New Urbanist planned communities.

The other founder of the anti-day-laborer group was Demos Chrissos, a veteran producer of Republican political ads who, like Susan Payne, is frequently quoted in the local media. Chrissos is also a professional anti-immigration activist on a national scale: He produced a TV ad for WeNeedAFence.com that included a shot of the World Trade Center being hit, and more recently produced ads around a campaign to pardon border agents convicted in a shooting. According to the online bio from his video marketing firm, Chrissos co-founded Citizens Above Party to “investigat[e] the suspected link between illegal immigration and widespread voter fraud across the nation.”

Of course, there’s no sign of “widespread voter fraud” by illegal immigrants anywhere except in the press releases of anti-immigrant groups and the politicians who court them, or of a link between suburban day laborers and anti-American terrorists. But press coverage of Payne’s rhetoric does demonstrate how easily the anti-immigrant movement can “infect” the REAL ID debate in Maryland and elsewhere. And while Payne comes off in the media as a typical concerned citizen, her partner’s work as a professional media consultant suggests that this confusion is part of their strategy.

'Ex-Gay' Group Appeals Maryland Sexuality Ed Curriculum

That includes “respect” for gays.

FRC, 'Ex-Gays' Continue Attack on Maryland School Board

Over “pro-homosexual” sex ed.

Harry Jackson Looks to Republicans' Future

Last week, in criticizing evangelical Jim Wallis for giving the Democrats’ radio address, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed that activists on the Religious Right were the nonpartisan ones, and he cited Maryland’s Bishop Harry Jackson as one who “typifies” the style of “boldly address[ing] both parties.” Despite this claim, as we noted, Jackson’s partisan credentials are still secure.

Today, Jackson himself makes that point in a column bemoaning the Republicans’ “political bloodbath” in the recent midterm elections. Chalking it up to “the Liberal Media” and Democratic pandering to minorities, Jackson offers some “out of the box thinking” to help the Right in 2008. Dismissing as “unimaginative” the Democratic platform of raising the minimum wage, he writes:

A new breed of entrepreneurial, religious blacks will be to glad accept heart felt invitations to join the conservative movement. People like Herman Cain and a host of other successful black business people are showing that there is no glass ceiling in many companies or industries. Growing numbers of black mid level managers, doctors, lawyers, and professions are looking for positive ways to contribute to their community. Men like Michael Steele Lt. Governor of Maryland proved that large numbers of Blacks are willing to entertain the conservative message.

Steele, who is black, won just one-fourth of the black vote. So confident were Republicans of Steele’s appeal to African Americans that they bused in homeless men from Philadelphia on Election Day to distribute fliers in black precincts presenting Steele as a Democratic candidate.

And if the name Herman Cain sounds familiar, you might recognize him as the public face of an organization called America’s PAC that ran thousands of radio ads on black radio stations encouraging African Americans to vote Republican by claiming that the “Democrat Party” was “decimating our people” through abortion, linking Democrats to Klan leader and Louisiana Republican politician David Duke, blaming Democrats for Hurricane Katrina and Florida voting problems, and this classic script:

Michael: And if you make a little mistake with one of your ho’s, you’ll want to dispose of that problem toot sweet, no questions asked, right?

Dennis: Naw, that’s too cold. I don’t snuff my own seed

Michael: Huh. Really? (pause) Well, maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican!

 Perhaps Cain and Steele were not the best examples of “positive ways to contribute” to the community.

FRC Ally's Partisan Credentials Still Secure

Like Gary Bauer, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins criticizes Sojourners chief and fellow evangelical Rev. Jim Wallis for giving the Democrats’ weekly radio program. Writes Perkins,

Interestingly, none of the people Wallis has criticized has delivered, or is ever likely to deliver, the GOP's weekly radio address, no matter who is President. Instead, they are best characterized by their willingness to speak the truth, to anyone willing to listen, on the essential issues of hearth and home that are the surest route to peace and prosperity. Bishop Harry Jackson of New Hope Christian Church in Maryland, president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, typifies this kind of leader. He speaks with equal passion about the sanctity of marriage and the need for religious leaders to boldly address both parties, knowing that sometimes this will make them less welcome behind a partisan microphone.

Bishop Jackson, who writes a column for the right-wing Townhall.com, has been a frequent speaker for far-right groups at events like FRC’s own “Justice Sunday II.” Lest he be further accused of bipartisanship or nonpartisanship – a potentially career-ending mistake to Perkins and his coalition – it should be noted that Jackson is still available to endorse Republican candidates, as he did George Bush in 2004 and Ken Blackwell and Michael Steele in 2006: After all, he supports candidates “who believe in both social and fiscal conservatism” and thinks abortion and gay marriage are plenty for church leaders to talk about.

Let the People Decide – As Long As They Agree with Us

A frequent complaint from opponents of same-sex marriage is that courts shouldn’t meddle in the issue – even though courts are charged with enforcing the equal protection of rights under the law. But anti-gay activists were pleased enough when courts in New York and other states rejected the claims of gay couples. How serious are anti-gay activists about letting the elected legislature decide?

Perhaps that logic only applies when the legislature comes down on their side. Last week, the California-based Campaign for Children and Families decried as “undemocratic” a bill to establish same-sex marriage going through the legislature. (It passed last year, but the governor vetoed it.)

And yesterday, the Family Research Council managed to juxtapose, in the same paragraph, their opposition to Washington, D.C.’s elected representatives getting to decide the issue and their claim that marriage in Maryland is “the province of the legislature”:

Hoping to avoid any "congressional meddling," the D.C. City Council is testing the waters for a same-sex marriage bill in the District. After passing a string of pro-homosexual legislation, the Council believes this to be the next logical step. While federal lawmakers have been all too receptive to the city's recent actions on "gay rights," Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who will soon chair the committee overseeing D.C. affairs, said the issue is not expected to surface. Congress has 30 days to challenge any law passed by the District government, and with the country's near sweep of marriage protection amendments many believe the move would be frowned on. In neighboring Maryland, the state Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in the case to uphold a ban on same-sex marriage. Plaintiffs will continue to argue that a social issue of this magnitude is the province of the legislature--not the courts.

Maryland Court Considers Same-Sex Marriage

Alliance Defense Fund lawyer claims “momentum” against gay couples. Meanwhile: Right decries California legislature effort for gay marriage as “undemocratic.”

More on Minutemen Finances: Smoke and Mirrors on Background Checks

Chris Simcox, president of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, took to the vigilante group’s online message board to blast Washington Times reporter Jerry Seper for his articles questioning MCDC’s financial management. “This guy is obtuse and can't be this downright dumb which is why I feel he purposefully misstates and, misquotes me and others,” wrote Simcox of the reporter at the right-wing newspaper, whom he called an “idiot.” Simcox went on, “Sinister Seper distorts/confuses facts on purpose -is he stupid or is he doing it on purpose- out to bring us down -don't underestimate the Bush family connection.”

One can understand Simcox’s anger. Most news media – including, until recently, the Washington Times – have been more than willing to accept Simcox’s claims about volunteers, fundraising, and spending at face value. More and more, however, it appears they don’t add up. The heavily marketed “border fence project” was downgraded from an “Israeli-style” barrier to a “standard cattle fence” that “wouldn’t stop a tricycle,” in the words of one vigilante. Now, the IRS disclosure form (990) the group has made available – while limited to calendar year 2005 – calls into question more of the claims made by its charismatic founder.

In September of 2005, as the group was gearing up for one of its “vigils” along the U.S.-Mexico border, the group’s Texas coordinator quit, alleging financial impropriety. “Chris is one of these people, he's almost intoxicating to listen to, and you want to believe what he says,” the disgruntled former Minuteman leader said. "But he doesn't back it up.”

The Company He Keeps

Last week, according to the Washington Daybook, a “group of black pastors [held] a press conference, beginning at 1 p.m., to endorse Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in Maryland's Senate race.”  Among those endorsing Steele was Bishop Harry Jackson who likes to refer to himself as a Democrat primarily because “being able to say I'm a registered Democrat disarms many of the people who want to write me off.” 

Apparently, Jackson thinks that by calling himself a Democrat means he can get away with saying things like

Gays have been at the helm of a fourfold strategy for years, but the wisdom behind their spiritual, cultural, political and generational tactics is clearly satanic.

Given his views, it is no surprise that the Right has eagerly embraced Jackson, featuring him as a speaker at two Family Research Council events – “Justice Sunday,” where he complained that “Black churches are too concerned with justice” and “Justice Sunday II” – designed to push for the confirmation of right-wing Bush administration judges, and inviting him to appear at a rally alongside Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist supporting the use of the "nuclear option" to do away with the filibuster in order to confirm Judge Janice Rogers Brown.

Recently, Jackson declared that his top reasons for working to elect Republicans are

As a black evangelical, I’ve had to think about the unpleasant prospect of a Democratically-controlled House and Senate. If the Democrats are in power, the following problems will occur: 1) There will be no protection of traditional marriage, 2) Abortion-on-demand will be encouraged, 3) Religious freedoms will be attacked …

Joining Jackson in endorsing Steele was Rev. James Thompson of Integrity Church International in Landover, MD - and apparently Jackson’s fear that religious freedoms would be attacked by Democrats was shared by Thompson’s wife, Emma Jean Thompson, who is responsible for this

Sellers said the campaign knew nothing about a mailer that arrived yesterday urging support for Steele and declaring that Democratic Senate candidate "Ben Cardin Promises to Attack Jesus Christ, Pastors, Churches and Christians and to Take Away Blacks' Freedom If He Is Elected."

The piece criticizing Cardin, who is Jewish, was produced and distributed by Emma Jean Thompson, a Bowie woman who attended a news conference yesterday endorsing Steele.

Right Wing Attacks Parkinson's-Afflicted Michael J. Fox for Pro-Stem Cell Research Ads

Rush Limbaugh says he’s off his meds or acting in the video; National Review and Princeton’s Robert George call it “slander”; Maryland’s Family Protection Lobby says candidates are “exploiting” Fox.

Right-Wing Bishop Harry Jackson Joins Religious Right

To cut black-oriented ads for Maryland Senate candidate Steele (R); Jackson calls for candidates “who believe in both social and fiscal conservatism.”

Distorting civil rights history, again

The National Black Republican Association made headlines a little over a week ago when it began airing radio ads in Maryland and Ohio claiming Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican. The ads included gross distortions of civil rights history intended to make the Republican Party sound palatable to African Americans, who usually vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Now the NBRA’s at it again. Apparently not content to insult listeners with merely 30 seconds of distortions, the NBRA has released a new 60-second version of its ad (audio here). The new ad contains plenty of additional warped history, and also attempts to stir up anti-gay sentiment. Here’s the transcript:
Voice 1: Dr. King was a real man. You know he was a Republican.
Voice 2: Dr. King? A Republican?
Voice 1: Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan.
Voice 2: White hoods and sheets?
Voice 1: Democrats fought all civil rights legislation form the 1860s til the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks.
Voice 2: Seriously?
Voice 1: And the Dixiecrats? Remained Democrats and vowed to vote for a yellow dog before a Republican. Republicans freed us from slavery and put our right to vote in the Constitution.
Voice 2: What?
Voice 1: Republicans started the NAACP, affirmative action, and the HBCUs.
Voice 2: Sounds like Democrats have bamboozled blacks.
Voice 1: Democrats blocked the minimum wage passed by Republicans, and over $200 billion have been spent on education health care and job training since President Bush took office.
Voice 2: So Democrats want to keep us poor while voting only Democrat.
Voice 1: Democrats want us to accept same-sex marriages, teen abortions without a parent’s consent, and suing the boy scouts for saying God in their pledge.
Voice 2: See, we need to think and vote on our own values.
Voice 1: Exactly. Democrats have talked the talk but the Republicans have walked the walk.
Voice 2: It’s time for us to do the walk.
Voice 1: You know it girl.
This misrepresentation of history is shameful, but it’s not isolated. Radical right faux “historian” David Barton has been peddling similar propaganda through a new DVD, and the NBRA has cited Barton's work as a basis for its communications. Thankfully, Barton, the NBRA, and their allies are not going unchallenged. Respected African American Democrats and Republicans, as well as nonpartisan leaders such as Rev. Timothy McDonald, the national chair of African American Ministers in Action, are standing up against these distortions and for the truth.

Not bamboozled in Maryland

A new radio ad in Maryland, apparently intended to boost the Senate candidacy of Michael Steele, urges African Americans to stop voting for Democrats, because, among other things, “Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws” and “Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan.” The ad claims that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican and says that “Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s” and that “Democrats have bamboozled blacks.” But after listening to the ad, it’s hard not to wonder exactly who’s trying to bamboozle who. The ad, being aired by the National Black Republican Association, fails to note Democrats’ role in the modern civil rights movement, and it neglects to mention Democrats’ positions on currently contested issues including affirmative action, public education, and voting rights. Unfortunately for Republicans, as political scientist Ronald Walters told the Washington Post, “You’re not likely to find African Americans having historical amnesia on this one. … This is clearly a sales pitch, and not a very good one.” To his credit, Steele has called the ad “insulting” and asked that it be pulled down, but it’s important to note that the misleading narrative promulgated by the ad is not anomalous. This line of rhetoric is outrageous, but it isn’t new. The Republican National Committee has hired Religious Right faux historian David Barton to travel the country and provide African American audiences with a similarly false version of civil rights history. Barton has also released a one-sided DVD that spreads the same untruths (see a video clip from the DVD here). People For the American Way Foundation just released an online report on David Barton that includes an in-depth look at his attempts to rewrite civil rights history. That report can be accessed at http://www.pfaw.org/go/davidbarton.
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