Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Anti-gay Tennessee lawmaker targets home town paper
Bradley News Weekly editor threatened by Rep. Jeff Miller
Tennessee State lawmaker Jeff Miller has hurled fighting words in the face of the Bradley News Weekly's editor Barry Graham. The Washington Post has picked up the story, and folks in Cleveland are talking about a threatening letter intended to scare away the weekly paper's advertisers.
The article quotes the publisher, Susan Shelton, who denies any reduction their advertising accounts.
Barry Graham, the paper's editor, is making waves in Cleveland. The soft-spoken Scotsman, who moved here from points further south, has a clarity of purpose with regard to the whole situation. His obvious disdain for the legislator who touts "family values" while he brings his Nashville girlfriend home to Cleveland with him to sign divorce papers is absolutely refreshing.
We need more Barry Graham's in East Tennessee. After all, this valley was originally settled by Scot-Irish. My ancestors came from that stock. Of course, the rest of the family was here waiting for them when they crossed Cumberland Gap. Maybe we need some more new blood in this valley. Unfortunately every time we get folks like Barry Graham or the myriad others I have known in the last 25 years since I came home from my wanderings in the West, the good ones take in the social climate and hightail it for parts unknown.
Perhaps they just run to the blue states where they can breate a little easier and relax in the knowledge that no one will threaten them because they tell the truth.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
ACLU fights for equal time for reproductive freedom in Tennessee
License plates now give one-sided viewpoint
CINCINNATI - The American Civil Liberties Union today asked the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a lower court ruling blocking an anti-abortion specialty license plate in Tennessee, saying that the plate discriminates against opposing viewpoints.
“When the state of Tennessee approved an anti-abortion license plate and failed to do the same for a pro-choice plate, it effectively cut off public discussion,” said Julie Sternberg, Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, who argued the case today before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. “The lower court made clear that the state cannot open up a forum for public debate on abortion without allowing both sides an equal opportunity to express their position. We are hopeful that the appeals court will do the same.”
The law in question makes a “Choose Life” license plate available to motorists for an annual fee of $35 over and above the basic costs of registering a car in the state. Fifty percent of all funds raised, after expenses, go to a private anti-choice organization called New Life Resources. The legislature twice rejected an amendment that would have authorized a “Pro Choice” specialty plate.
On September 24, 2004, a federal district court blocked the state from distributing “Choose Life” plates, saying that the state’s sponsorship of such plates constitutes viewpoint discrimination. The state appealed the case to the Sixth Circuit.
“The real issue at the heart of this case is free speech,” said Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee. “This is not about being on one side or the other of the abortion debate. It is about being on the side of free speech for all.”
Plaintiffs in the case include the ACLU of Tennessee, Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee, Inc., and three individuals. Lawyers on the case include Sternberg and Carrie Flaxman with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project; Roger Evans and Donna Lee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America; and Susan L. Kay, the ACLU of Tennessee Legal Committee Chair.
The case, ACLU of Tennessee v. Bredesen, #03-1046.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Join the fight! Stop Alito!
Deal breaker Alito's record speaks loudly regarding women's rights
My visit tonight to bluenecks and the gadzillion news alerts I have received today regarding the Alito nomination gave me reason to research this guy a bit. I had already heard that he has rendered decisions that virtually send women hurtling back to Victorian times by allowing a husband rights to the domain otherwise known as his wife's uterus. When men take on the risks of pregnancy and childbirth, then and only then will they be entitled to equal say over any conceptus they may have accidentally or purposely donated their DNA to create. Unbelievable!
Tennessee's Guerilla Women describe Alito as nothing more than a Scalia clone.
I'm revving up the old pro-choice engines because it really does look like we're in for a fight on this one. With 15 years experience on the bench and the blessings of the holy fathers - Robertson, Falwell, and Dobson - we're in for a wild ride that will test the mettle of many a politico. The nuclear option placed on the front burner the last time the Dems threated a filibuster is moving to the front of the stove once again.
We'll have to see how the partisans actually line up on this, but I have received alerts and calls to action all day today from women's groups, progressives, and LGBT organizations decrying the nomination and declaring Alito to be a far right darling.
It's time to go to work, y'all.
Friday, October 28, 2005
VOX-UT Knoxville raises voice against GAP
Pro-choice students defend reproductive freedom
by Beth Maples-Bays
KNOXVILLE – Recent VOX action on the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville shouted out their defense of women’s right to physical integrity and against the misleading and shocking pictures displayed with UT’s approval.
In speaking of the October 25th action, Vox supporter Andrew Ciscel observes, “The main action today was very successful with 30-40 pro-choice activists holding signs and flyers, lining up as a blockade to the highly inappropriate display that GAP imposed on UT campus,” states Andres Ciscel, VOX supporter. “It was a very peaceful protest of their
display with lots of support from passing students and staff.”
GAP (Genocide Awareness Project) goes from campus to campus with their large detailed photographic displays of bloody fetal remains comparing abortion to Jewish Holocaust victims, African-American lynchings, and the genocide visited upon Native Americans by the United States government.
“In my opinion, if this sector of the anti-choice movement really wants to have intelligent conversation, they can come out and demonstrate without photos of bloody fetuses next to images from real human genocides,” asserts Ciscel.
Periodically throughout the two-day display, members of VOX were individually handing out fliers next to the GAP display. Several English classes, studying debate, took flyers from both sides and sometimes engaged the anti-choice participants.
What is Vox®? Vox is the Latin word for "voice" and Vox: Voices for Planned Parenthood is a nationwide program to energize and mobilize the new generation of pro-choice Americans. Vox aims to educate and inspire a new generation of young adults to advocate reproductive freedom.
The newly organized Vox is working quickly on UT-Knoxville campus to work on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom. In this case, they protest the misuse of the word “genocide” and other attempts to shock the public and slant the public conversation in their favor.
In Knoxville, women may seek a full array of reproductive health services at the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health. The Center’s director, Corrine Rovetti, RN, MSA, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville’s College of Nursing and has been an outspoken support of women’s reproductive freedom.
From their Web site:
“Medical care at the Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health is supervised by Morris D. Campbell, M.D. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and also a Fellow in the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He lives in Knoxville and has privileges at local hospitals.
Routine gynecological and family planning care is provided by Corinne Rovetti, RNC / MSN. She is a certified family nurse practitioner specializing in women's health care. Her perspective is to empower women to empower themselves.”
Contact information for Knoxville Center for Reproductive Health. Location: 1547 West Clinch Avenue, Knoxville, Tennessee 37916. Phone: (local) 865-637-3861 or (toll-free) 800-325-5357. Fax: 865-637-0222. Email: email@example.com. Visit their Web site at www.kcrh.com.
“PPMET believes that the self-determined pursuit of sexual health is important for everyone's well-being and quality of life. We are a recognized and respected leader in providing reproductive, sexual and complementary healthcare and comprehensive sexuality education to women, men and teens regardless of race, age, income status, religion or sexual orientation.” – PPMET Web site
Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee has two offices: Nashville and Knoxville. They offer comprehensive reproductive health care in Nashville including both medical and surgical first trimester abortion services. You can reach the Nashville office at 615-321-7216. The Knoxville office does not offer abortion services. You can receive other reproductive health services including birth control and gynecological care. You can reach the Knoxville office at 865-694-7155. Or simply call toll-free 1-800-230-PLAN (7526.) The phone will ring in the clinic nearest you. Visit their Web site at www.plannedparenthood.org/pp2/tennessee..
For further information about VOX on UT-K campus, email Stacia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth can be reached at Beth@gyrlgroove.com.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Confronting misogyny in the LGBT leadership
It is with a heavy heart that I sit down to write this article. I am feeling as if I have come full circle and, in the process, went absolutely nowhere. I am an old school radical lesbian feminist separatist who was fool enough to try to reach out across the abyss that separates us to some kind and gentle men in my local gay community.
At first I was completely reassured that there were men in this world who are unfettered by the legacy handed down from both the insitutional and familial patriarchs that control our daily lives. I found brilliance and beauty in the creative spark that I share with many gay men. Their generalized love of the arts gave me hope for common ground in areas other than the oppression we share. As I have said, I am a lesbian. I have been “out” for 27 years.
For many of those years, I was unable to fully participate in community political activities due to educational endeavors, family responsibilities, and, more recently, heath problems. I have managed to a few things on the way to my mid-fifties including writing for a couple of lesbian publications and, now, LGBT publications. I have also been known to sit on a board or two, organize a group here and there, and produce some events for the community. It has been a labor of love.
I have bonded with my community more in the last four or five years than ever before, given the lack of obstacles to freedom of expression as in prior years with family, housing, and job considerations. It is a welcome relief to be “out” in every arena of my life. Too many times, we dismiss the stress brought on by a life in the closet. It is very real.
So I looked forward to my senior years when I could write with abandon without regard for anyone who might be looking over my shoulder intent on imposing their homophobic values on everyone around them. There are lots of those folks here where I live, but if the truth were to be told, there are lots of them everywhere, especially in the current American political climate. The entire country seems to have taken on the values that I fled in my youth when I moved West to escape my Southern Baptist roots. But in the end, I had to go home to fight these battles. Sometimes it takes a native’s insight to war against the particular factions that oppress our community in a given geographic region.
We like to say that we are on the front lines of the culture war. I am proud to stand beside my brothers in this fight. At least I was proud. Lately some troulblesome attitudes have reared their ugly little heads, and I am once again confronting misogyny. That deadly foe was front and center in my life for many years. After my Mother’s husband killed her in cold blood and O.J.’d his way out of it, I knew that this opponent would be first in my battles against injustice.
We were separatists in the 70s because we knew that all men are basically misogynist, and relationships between men and women are inherently unequal. Why in the hell did I forget that? How stupid have I been to delude myself into believing that there are kind and gentle men? They may treat each other with respect and dignity, but don’t hold your breath if you don’t have a penis.
All I can say is this: I am not laying down my sword, but my shield will be a little higher from this day forward as the battles become more fierce here on the front lines. Unfortunately my shield is needed not just for the Jerry Falwell’s and Dick Cheney’s, but also to fend off the barbs of my comrades as they seek to position themselves in the community.
It’s a shame. It’s a waste of time, energy, and resources that could be used much more productively against the onslaught from the religious reich.
But, I guess boys will be boys.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Several interesting articles - one interesting theme
Sex topics with women center stage
There are several interesting articles out there this evening with one theme - men's fear of women's sexuality and their attempts to control this powerful force.
First on the list is "Oversexed," an article from The Nation written by Debbie Nathan in which she documents the plight of women brought to the United States and virtually enslaved by their employers. She examines the issue alongside its partner, human trafficking for sexual enslavement.
From there, I go the New York Times for a look at Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder experienced by men who witness their wives giving birth. The writer, Keith Ablow, M.D., takes us on a "A Perilous Journey From Delivery Room to Bedroom" as he takes us on a stroll down memory lane reminiscent of the time when all men were assumed to be heterosexual and avid fans of the virgin-whore dichotomy.
From there it's just a short jaunt over to the Internaitonal Herald-Tribune's Health and Science section where there is another article from the New York Times. This time, Denise Grady reports on yet another article from the Journal of the American Medical Association published today that concludes there is no capacity for feeling pain in a fetus of less than six months gestation. This blows apart one of the main talking points of the wingnuts who want women to die in childbirth even if they are seven years old and incest victims. I'm sure they will go merrily on their way, ignoring the A.M.A., but at least we'll know the truth of the matter.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Robert's nomination more ominous than indicated in mainstream press
Democrats ignore warning signs of extremism
John Roberts' nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States is soon to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. While Democrats lay down and play dead, the opposition to Roberts' nomination within the LGBT community and women's groups is clear across the board.
From such organizations as The Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Organization for Women, National Abortion Rights Action League, and many others comes the radical notion that we should not accept a pig in a poke. (Yes, I'm an Appalachian.) That we should not go gently into the "good" night of futile acceptance that Roberts is "the best we're going to get from this administration."
The ACLU points to previous actions by Robers indicating opposition to Roe v. Wade. support for school prayer, and opposition to full expression of freedom of speech along with greater scruting of his role in the Reagan and Bush I administrations.
In her Free Press column, Molly Ivins warns of complacency regarding Roberts nomination and points to his previous defense of such illustrious clients as Operation Rescue and of his membership in the Federalist Society. If you don't understand what the big deal is about his membership in that lovely little group, click on the link and read for a bit. It won't take long to see that they are right-wing extremists guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any self-respecting progressive.
So what if he is well-heeled, gracious, well-mannered and eye candy? So what if he isn't Robert Bork or John Bolton?
I suppose we are to be grateful that he will be well-dressed and mannerly as he twists the knife?
Well he does have one thing to his credit. He found Fred Thompson a job. Old Fred's on the team that is managing Johnny Boy according to Molly Ivins.
Friday, August 12, 2005
HRC, NBJC urge Wilson to "do the right thing"
Black DC minister invited to meet with LGBT leaders
In a press release issued today by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC),a case in point of how hate speech can lead to violence rang out like the sounding of a bell whose tone is so insistent it cannot be ignored.
Referring to Reverend Willie Wilson's hate-filled sermon delivered from a DC pulpit in which he demonized all lesbians and particularly lesbians of color from his own community, the Human Rights Campaign along with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) offered an invitation to Rev. Wilson to sit down and talk with community leaders about the growing distance between them.
"We called upon Rev. Wilson to meet with us. We wanted him to sit down with those of us he once embraced as member of the black church, of his black family," said Donna Payne, HRC's Senior Diversity Organizer.
Neither HRC nor the National Black Justice Coalition received a response.
Rev. Wilson is the leader of the Million More March coming up on October 15th in our nation's capital.
Payne spoke out today about a time when she and Wilson worked side-by-side to promote community amd when lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people came to hear his message of unity and fairness in a church that welcomed their presence. Her message included her memories of his prior work on the side of justice.
But she spoke out against the hate speech that he spewed forth from his pulpit recently and against the hurt and pain caused in the LGBT community because of his words. She spoke out against his explicit sexual remarks that she felt "disgraced the pulpit and his dignity."
Referring to the consequences of Wilson's sermon as the "ripple effect of hate," Payne also spoke of a DC minister who called Wilson to task in a written reponse. Afterward, Reverend Abena McCray began almost immediately to receive death threats, numerous harrassing phone calls, and a brick through her car window.
Payne also told of Noah's Arc, soon to be the nation's first black LGBT television program, whose production had to be called to a halt due to Nation of Islam protests outside their building.
Her passion for the LGBT community rings clearly throughout her remarks. Her need for a united black community runs through her plea like a strong thread meant to mend the tears of recent days.
I've never met Donna Payne, but I can feel her power emanating from the words on my monitor screen. We should all have that kind of passion for the work we do.
Read her last few words and see that I speak the truth:
Before another rock is thrown, help bring us together. Let's sit down and, as one united community. There is no need to feel threatened. We can demonstrate our willingness to accept responsibility, to change our behavior and to strive to make our communities the best they can be by talking.
We want to meet with you. Stop the hate by using your powerful voice for unity. We are waiting for you to do the right thing.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Prior pro bono work poor choice for focus on Bush's pick for high court
Roberts' prior pro-equality pro bono work does not qualify him for gay sainthood. It does not qualify him for inclusion in exclusive gay circles either. Although I am not privy at this point to the details surrounding this prior legal endeavor, I assume it was simply "his turn" to take a pro bono case at this firm. (?)
What it does tell me is the this guy is a lawyer. You know the kind...the attorney who will do whatever it takes to win a case or get ahead. I believe in many circles that is otherwise known as blind ambition - hardly a characteristic one would single out as befitting a post on the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
I notice that People for the American Way (PFAW) shares some of my reservations. They point out that his prior positions on school bussing to achieve racial balance, school prayer, affirmative action, voting rights, immigrant rights, religious and civil liberties, Title IX, sex discrimination, rights of the disabled, rights of the accused, reproductive freedom, environmental protections, executive power, and excessive arrest procedures land him squarely in the lap of the right wingers that are shying...no...running away from them as fast as their little legs will carry them based solely on his one time assistance to a gay group.
I guess the wingnuts are just not prone to "big picture" thinking. I hope the LGBT community isn't guilty of just the opposite - focusing on this one thing that Roberts did under Goddess-knows-what circumstances.
He's bad news no matter how you slice it.
Thursday, 04 August 2005
“We were ready to hold them accountable on national television; they knew it and ran scared,” Chuck Bowen, Executive Director of Georgia Equality.
August 4, 2005, Atlanta, Georgia - Today’s planned discussion of the billboard controversy on Fox News has been cancelled because Lamar Outdoor Advertising claimed they had no one to appear in the interview. Instead, they offered a written statement.
Read Georgia Equality's press release here.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Lamar Advertising refuses Georgia Equality request for "neighbors" billboard
Georgia Equality Executive Director to Face-Off with Lamar Outdoor Executive LIVE on Fox News
A statement from Georgia Equality indicates they have scheduled an on-air debate with Lamar Outdoor Advertising, billboard giant. Lamar has recently refused Georgia Equality's request to purchase billboard space.
"Your World with Neil Cavuto" on Fox News Network will feature the face-off on Thursday, August 4, 2005 from 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. The program will be re-broadcast at 1:00 a.m. Friday, August 5, 2005 also on the Fox News Channel. Cavuto's program is said to have an audience of approximately 1.5 million for each airing.
Despite numerous requests from various sources, Lamar execs have not yet confirmed whether or not they will appear as this post is uploaded.
Georgia Equality summarizes the events leading up to the broadcast this way:
"The controversy arose when Georgia Equality contacted Lamar about placing advertisements on its billboards in South Georgia for the “We Are Your Neighbors” campaign. Lamar refused because it defied “community standards,” but the president of the company said that he did not agree with the local manager to decline the business. He went on to say, however, that he would not override the decision by the local manager."
I guess LGBT money shouldn't go into any of the products advertised by Lamar.
Here is the billboard they refused:
For those wishing to contact Lamar Advertising, please see the contact information provided below.
Lamar Advertising Company
5551 Corporate Boulevard, Suite 2-A
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
General Information: Theresa Doran
Mailing Address: P. O. Box 66338Baton Rouge, LA 70896
Corporate Phone Number: (225) 926-1000
Corporate Fax Numbers:(225) 926-1005
Executive: (225) 923-0658
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Tennessee politics...corrupt as usual
Bredesen's office runs true to form
It seems that in Tennessee it is tradition to ignore any complaints originating from the "wrong people."
A case in point from the pages of the Knoxville weekly Metro Pulse -
Citizen Complainer Barry Schmittou filed the original citizen complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee that led to the investigation of state Sen. John Ford’s consulting contracts. He has been complaining about legislative ethics for years, but his complaints, even to a Nashville grand jury, have been largely ignored.
The recent Tennessee Waltz sting has prompted Schmittou to try again to get complaints heard. He has filed ethics complaints against about two dozen legislators, mostly having to do with incomplete and sketchy campaign finance reports. He often cites a credit card payment for several thousand dollars with the notation “campaign expenses.” He has filed complaints against House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and Lt. Gov. John Wilder and a host of others.
Schmittou has cancer and alleges that he was fired and denied Workers Comp coverage and thus he has a beef with state government. He hobbles down to state Sen. Ron Ramsey’s office (chair of the Senate Ethics Committee) to file his complaints.
Until recently, the Senate Ethics Committee had not met for several years because evidently no able-bodied citizens had lodged a complaint about legislative ethics.
The Bredesen administration says his citizen advocacy is because he wants to draw attention to his Workman’s Comp complaints.
This after Schmittou filed an ethics complaint saying the Bredesen administration is tripling the TennCare business with First Health, a pharmaceutical management company who has as its lobbyist Dick Lodge, married to Bredesen administration cabinet member Gina Lodge.
Monday, August 01, 2005
Barney Frank leads charge protesting gay death sentence in Nigeria
22 Dems sign letter condemning Nigerian human rights abuse
A 50-year-old man was recently condemned to death in Nigeria after being accused of having sex with another man. He was arrest and tried for this "offense," then was acquitted due to lack of evidence. After he mentioned to the judge that he had had sexual relationships with men in the past, he was placed on death row where he awaits execution.
In response, Barney Frank (D-MA) organized his colleaugues in writing a response addressed to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo in strong protest of the impending execution.
Nigeria has had previous problems with human rights abuses and have a poor record with especially with regard to fairness in their courts. The State Department's 2004 Country Report on Human Rights Practices gives Nigeria low marks on this issue.
A special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights met with the convicted man while visiting prisons in the African nation, and reports indicate that the punishment is described as "wholly disproportionate.
The letter below was signed by 22 House Democrats. It should have been signed by all member of both Houses of Congress and the President.
August 1, 2005
His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
The President's Office
Dear President Obasanjo,
We write to express our serious concern over a recent case in the northern state of Kano of a 50-year-old Nigerian man who was sentenced to death by stoning after admitting to homosexual sex.
According to reports, the man was charged with sodomy, based on an accusation made by a neighbor, and was arrested and brought before a Shari'a court.
After the man was acquitted for lack of evidence, the judge then asked him if he had had homosexual sex on other occasions, and when the man said yes, on that basis, he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to death by stoning. There was no suggestion in the conviction that the sex was not consensual.
The specific circumstances of this conviction are highly problematic, and, in fact, we believe that the execution by stoning or by any other means of any individual for private, adult, consensual sexual activity is grossly inhumane and well below the standards that any civilized society should uphold.
We strongly urge you to intervene in this case to assure that this man's legal and human rights are respected and defended. We share the view of the special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights who recently ended a visit to Nigeria with a call for the death penalty to be dropped in cases of homosexuality and for "immediate measures to review the entire proceedings" of this man's case in particular.
We have been very supportive of your efforts to transform Nigeria from military to civilian rule, and we applaud in particular the role your country is playing to help foster stability in West Africa. We also continue to be supportive of U.S. aid to Nigeria, but we must tell you that Americans are also entitled to expect that countries that benefit from our humanitarian and economic assistance will not tolerate practices that are so clearly in violation of basic human rights.
REP. BARNEY FRANK
REP. BARBARA LEE
REP. DONALD M. PAYNE
REP. TOM LANTOS
REP. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY
REP. JULIA CARSON
REP. TAMMY BALDWIN
REP. JIM McDERMOTT
REP. SUSAN A. DAVIS
REP. JOSEPH CROWLEY
REP. HENRY A. WAXMAN
REP. MICHAEL M. HONDA
REP. BERNARD SANDERS
REP. MICHAEL R. McNULTY
REP. JAMES P. McGOVERN
REP. VIC SNYDER
REP. JAMES P. MORAN
REP. ELIOT L. ENGEL
REP. GARY L. ACKERMAN
REP. NEIL ABERCROMBIE
REP. DENNIS J. KUCINICH
REP. BETTY McCOLLUM
Sunday, July 03, 2005
ADA under attack
LGBT community divided
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Across the country, disabled people and their advocates and families with join together to show the nation how the ADA has improved the lives of disabled Americans.
From the Accessible Society
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the most comprehensive federal civil-rights statute protecting the rights of people with disabilities. It affects access to employment; state and local government programs and services; access to places of public accommodation such as businesses, transportation, and non-profit service providers; and telecommunications.
The scope of the ADA in addressing the barriers to participation by people with disabilities in the mainstream of society is very broad. The ADA's civil
rights protections are parallel to those that have previously been established by the federal government for women and racial, ethnic and religious minorities.
"The ADA is solely about 'equal opportunity', from its preamble to its final provision: like other civil rights laws, the ADA prohibits discrimination and
mandates that Americans be accorded equality in pursuing jobs, goods,services and other opportunities -- but the ADA makes clear that equal treatment is not
synonymous with identical treatment, says Professor Robert Burgdorf Jr., one of the drafters of the original bill that became the ADA.
"Letting every employee have an identical opportunity to use a restroom located up a flight of stairs may be "identical" treatment but it is hardly equal treatment for a worker who uses a wheelchair. The ADA is a mandate for equality. Any person who's discriminated against by an employer because of a real disability -- or because the employer regards the person as being disabled, whether they are or not -- should be entitled to the law's protection. The focus of the Act was -- and should be -- on eliminating employers' practices that make people unnecessarily different."
Progress at 10 years
Ten years after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, this landmark federal law has proved a remarkable success, defying the gloom and doom predictions of many members of Congress that the law, designed to open up American society to its 54 million citizens with disabilities, would bankrupt the economy. At the same time however, the law has
not fully delivered on its keys promises to eliminate discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace and in public accommodations.
The ADA has profoundly changed how society views and accommodates its citizens with disabilities. Universal design -- the practice of designing
products, buildings and public spaces and programs to be usable by the greatest number of people -- has helped create a society where curb cuts, ramps, lifts on buses, and other access designs are increasingly common. In the process, we have discovered that an accessible society is good for everyone, not just people with disabilities.
Curb cuts designed for wheelchair users are also used by people with baby carriages, delivery people, and people on skateboards and roller blades. With the Baby Boom generation poised to enter the population of seniors, the number of Americans needing access and universal design will grow enormously.
The ADA has created a more inclusive climate where
companies, institutions, and organizations are reaching out far more often to people with disabilities. Colleges and universities, for example, now accommodate more people with disabilities than they did before ADA, even though they have been obligated by law for nearly 25 years to make their campus and classrooms accessible.
"Flood of Lawsuits" Never Materialized
When the ADA was before Congress, some members predicted a flood of lawsuits that would bankrupt or at least overburden business. One Congressional
leader characterized the ADA a "disaster" benefiting only "gold diggers" filing frivolous lawsuits. Attempts continue to weaken the law through amendments.
Studies have shown, however, that businesses have adapted to the ADA much more easily - and inexpensively - than the doomsayers predicted. Some have even made money by making accommodations.
Law Professor Peter Blanck of the University of Iowa has studied business compliance with the ADA, including Sears Roebuck and many other large
businesses, and found that compliance was often as easy as raising or lowering a desk, installing a ramp, or modifying a dress code. Another survey found that
three-quarters of all changes cost less than $100. Moreover, the predicted flood of lawsuits proved to be imaginary. Almost 90 percent of the cases brought
before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are thrown out. And only about 650 lawsuits were filed in the ADA 's first five years - a small number
compared to 6 million businesses, 666,000 public and private employers, and 80,000 units of state and local governments that must comply. The American Bar
Association recently conducted a survey and learned that, of the cases that actually go to court, 98 percent are decided in favor of the defendants, usually
Supreme Court Decisions Thwart Intent of ADA
Many people believe that Supreme Court decisions involving the ADA are impeding efforts to create a more accessible society. Law Professor Robert
Burgdorf has written, "Twelve years ago, as I drafted the original version of the Americans with Disabilities Act, I never dreamed that this landmark civil rights law would become so widely misunderstood and my words so badly misinterpreted, particularly by the body meant to protect the very rights guaranteed by the law." Despite tremendous strides forward, many people with
disabilities are dismayed that more progress has not come. In 1990, 70 percent of people with disabilities were unemployed, and the figure remains the same
today. Part of the problem, they say, is the adverse court rulings.
Another problem has been contradictory federal policies that actually make it difficult for people with disabilities to work. Under current Social Security
regulations, a person with a disability is allowed to enroll in Medicare, but can earn only a few hundred dollars a month. Earn more than the limit and you
stand to lose all your benefits.
Likewise, federal and state regulations are still biased in favor of nursing homes and institutional care providers over personal attendant services at home
-- a policy that dates to the 1960s when Medicare and Medicaid were created. This policy forces many people to live in nursing homes instead of at home, where they say they'd rather be in order to participate in their communities and, for many, obtain employment.
People With Disabilities Disenfranchised
Another significant problem that hasn't disappeared in the decade since ADA was enacted is access to the voting booth. One study shows that the voting rate among people with disabilities is 20 percentage points less than non-disabled people, despite state and federal laws, including the ADA, which require polling places to accommodate disabled voters. The Federal Election Commission has reported that more than 20,000 polling places across the nation are inaccessible, depriving people with disabilities of their fundamental right to vote. Frequently, polling
booths are set in church basements or in upstairs meeting halls where there is no ramp or elevator, or disabled parking.
This means problems not just for people who use wheelchairs, but for people who use canes or walkers too. And in most states people who are blind don't have the right to a Braille ballot; they have to bring someone along to vote for them.
While much remains to be done to achieve the accessible society, the ADA stands out as what one respected Washington observer called "one of the
government's greatest successes" of the past decade. Increasingly, in part because of the ADA, people are beginning to look at disability in a different way. As Professor Robert Silverstein of George Washington University has written, "Disability, like race and gender, is a natural and normal part of the human experience that in no way diminishes a person's right to live a normal life and participate in mainstream activities."
As I sat down to do my duty and forward a Lambda Legal activism alert warning against William Pryor, a Bushie judicial nominee who is particularly virulent with regard to the Americans with Disabilities Act, I really was not expecting the tirade against the post made by a nutcase in California who parades around boasting that he really is just like all the white, Christian, heterosexual, conservative fascists except for the fact that his sexual partners are men. What a wonderful thing about which to brag!
The scary part is that he is correct. I have not often had to deal with this kind of idiot in my years of activism. Despite the fact that nearly all of my activist endeavors in the last five years or so have been almost entirely in the LGBT arena, I have been privileged to meet some wonderful, intelligent, and sensitive gay men who have enriched my life in innumerable ways. Then this jerk comes along to remind me that LGBT is not the only community that I embrace. Of course, I'm a feminist. I learned long ago that the reformist feminist mindset is not one that I can claim. I'm an old-time radical feminist who is utterly delight with the young, progressive, queer youth who are making their voices heard more and more lately. I saw quite a few of them yesterday on the Live Eight concerts. They made me smile all day. I am fortunate to have wonderful progressive friends who come from a literal rainbow of life paths and origins. That is what it's all about, after all - to make our voices heard, the choir must grow. The song must be sung in every language, in every pitch, in every country, by every race.
It's hard work to try to make that happen. It is truly a labor of joy.
Saturday, July 02, 2005
A Round of Applause for the NOW protesters in Nashville
O'Connor nomination arouses fears of losses
The Now Convention in Nashville seems to be stirring up feminist passion. Today more than 200 women marched on the state capital bearing signs with slogans proclaiming their intent to fight against the Bush administration's apparent attempt to roll back women's rights to pre-Second Wave status.
Check out Tennessee Guerilla Women's blog for background.
Following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement earlier in the week, local evening news coverage showed women of all ages protesting the current administrations policies and vowing to fight diligently against the appointment of an extreme right-wing judicial nomination to the United States Supreme Court. Many fear the scales which have been precariously tipped on the side of peace and justice (5-4 in many cases) will now swing decidedly in favor of a distinctly conservative high court with disastrous effects for women including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1974 decision that gave women the right to abortion.
Yes, I said the right to abortion. It is a choice that many women opt for in the face of unwanted or unsafe pregnancy. The fact that the extreme right wing fundamentalist politicos in the US have managed to indocrinate an entire generation into believing that every time sperm meets ovum there is a human life involved, does not negate the very real issues women face including economic hardship, prohibitive health conditions, unstable life situations, existing numbers of children, and the often minimized unwanted pregnancies that occur as a result of rape or incestous rape.
We will not cease in our efforts to maintain this right for women in the United States. It will not be taken from us.
Mark my words.
The war we forgot is still raging. Afghanistan is heating up with scarcely a word about it in the American press. If things do not cool off soon, the touted gains for women in that country will be obliterated.
We must keep long memories of the atrocities committed against the women of Afghanistan. Everyone knows the consequences when herstory is forgotten. Repetition of the hell on earth that was their lives under the Taliban cannot and must not be tolerated.
Misogyny and widespread, culturally supported abuse of women and girls is a fact of life in Afghanistan to this day. Despite the propaganda and lies fed to the American public by the Bush administration, the status of women, while improved, is still poor. The widely tolerated, institutionally supported violence against women and girls is a blatant violation of human rights and should be roundly condemned by both the United Nations and the United States.