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Brad Luna 202/216.1514 Cell: 202/812.8140
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued a statement today regarding the Obama Administration's decision to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a gay couple who married in California. Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who were married in California on July 10, 2008, filed a suit in federal court in December challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Administration responded yesterday.
"The Administration apparently determined that it had a duty to defend DOMA in the courts. The President has just as strong a duty to put his principles into action, and end discrimination against LGBT people and our families," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We call on the President to send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress," he added.
Since taking office in January, President Obama has taken bold steps to deliver on principles and promises he articulated during his campaign. In just his first six months in office, President Obama has signed the Lily Ledbetter Act into law, paved the way for life-saving stem cell research, eliminated barriers to women's health and reproductive care abroad, expanded insurance coverage for millions of children, ended the torture of detainees, and called for the notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay to be closed. However, this community is frustrated by the Administration's silence, until today, on a critical matter that the President voiced support for during his campaign-repealing DOMA.
"President Obama must see that this extraordinary record of commitment to the public good at last be extended to end discrimination against LGBT people," said Solmonese. "Mr. President, you have called DOMA 'abhorrent' and pledged to be a fierce advocate for our community. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, it is time for you to use your leadership to translate these principles into meaningful action."
HRC also has grave concerns about the arguments that the Administration put forth in this case, arguments that simply do not reflect the experiences that LGBT people face or the contributions that they make. The Administration's brief claims that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress's power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental. The brief further claims that DOMA is a "neutral" federal position on same-sex marriages, and permits the states to determine on their own whether to recognize same-sex marriages. The most alarming argument, grounded neither in fact nor in law, reads as follows:
[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.
"Same-sex couples and their families are not seeking subsidies," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "We pay taxes equally, contribute to our communities equally, support each other equally, pay equally into Social Security, and participate equally in our democracy. Equal protection is not a handout. It is our right as citizens," he said.
The Human Rights Campaign represents a grassroots force of over 750,000 members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, HRC envisions an America where LGBT people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.
"We are now at a crossroads between being an authoritarian and a democratic country," said one activist.
An estimated 500,000 people took to the streets of the capital Warsaw and other Polish cities on Sunday to protest the nation's far-right government, which has assailed reproductive freedoms, attacked the rights of LGBTQ+ people, and cracked down on critical civil society groups and media outlets.
Sunday's march against the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party—which has held power since 2015—was called by former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who is leading the Civic Platform opposition party into an expected October general election.
"Here's my pledge to you today: We are going to win this election and hold PiS accountable," Tusk told a crowd gathered in Warsaw.
The Associated Pressreported that "the passage of a contentious law last month seems to have mobilized greater support for Tusk."
The law, signed by right-wing President Andrzej Duda, "allows for the creation of a commission to investigate Russian influence in Poland," AP noted. "Critics argue that it would have unconstitutional powers, including the capacity to exclude officials from public life for a decade. They fear it will be used by the ruling party to remove Tusk and other opponents from public life."
Sylwia Gregorczyk-Abram, a lawyer and rights activist, toldThe Guardian ahead of Sunday's protests that the new measure "is against Tusk but we can all be targeted by this law, because they will not hesitate to use it against anyone."
"It is the culmination of the authoritarian system developed in Poland over the past eight years. We are now at a crossroads between being an authoritarian and a democratic country.”
\u201cPierwszym krokiem do zrzucenia niewoli jest by\u0107 odwa\u017cnym, aby by\u0107 wolnym. Pierwszym krokiem do zwyci\u0119stwa jest pozna\u0107 si\u0119 na w\u0142asnej sile.\n\nJeste\u015bmy tutaj dzisiaj, \u017ceby ca\u0142a Polska, ca\u0142a Europa, ca\u0142y \u015bwiat, \u017ceby wszyscy zobaczyli, jak jeste\u015bmy silni!\u201d— Donald Tusk (@Donald Tusk) 1685878134
Described as among the largest political demonstrations in Poland in decades, Sunday's march came amid growing alarm over the Polish government's ongoing assault on basic rights.
As Amnesty Internationalsummarized in its 2022 report on the country: "Access to abortion was further limited. Criminal charges were used to curtail freedom of expression. The authorities continued to erode the independence of the judiciary. Freedom of peaceful assembly was restricted. Violations of LGBTI rights persisted. Positive moves were made to accommodate between 1 and 2 million refugees from Ukraine, although official hostility continued towards refugees and migrants who arrived since 2021 via Belarus."
"One of these individuals is a seven-year-old boy in remission from Leukemia who is now unable to access follow-up—and potentially lifesaving—treatments," said local advocacy groups.
Hundreds of thousands of poor Floridians have been kicked off Medicaid in recent weeks as their Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, travels the country for his 2024 presidential bid and rakes in campaign cash from big donors.
Florida is one of more than a dozen states that have begun unwinding pandemic-era rules barring states from removing people from Medicaid during the public health emergency. Late last year, Congress reached a bipartisan deal to end the so-called continuous coverage requirements, opening the door to a massive purge of the lifesaving healthcare program.
A dozen states have released early data on the number of people removed from Medicaid as they restart eligibility checks, a cumbersome process that many people ultimately fail to navigate.
So far, the statistics are alarming: More than 600,000 people across the U.S. have been stripped of Medicaid coverage since April, according to a KFF Health Newsanalysis of the available data, and "the vast majority were removed from state rolls for not completing paperwork" rather than confirmed ineligibility.
Nearly 250,000 people who have been booted from Medicaid live in Florida, whose governor is a longtime opponent of public healthcare programs. As HuffPost's Jonathan Cohn wrote Sunday, DeSantis "has refused to support the ACA's Medicaid expansion for the state, which is the biggest reason that more than 12% of Floridians don't have health insurance."
"That's the fourth-highest rate in the country," Cohn noted.
But DeSantis, who has said he wants to "make America Florida," appears unmoved by the staggering number of people losing Medicaid in his state as he hits the campaign trail. The governor relied heavily on large contributors to bring in more than $8 million during the first 24 hours of his presidential bid.
Prior to formally launching his 2024 campaign, DeSantis traveled the country in private jets on the dime of rich and sometimes secret donors, and he is currently facing a Federal Election Commission complaint for unlawfully transferring more than $80 million from a state committee to a super PAC supporting his White House bid.
"Families with children have been erroneously terminated, and parents are having trouble reaching the DCF call center for help with this process."
Late last month, DeSantis' administration insisted it "has a robust outreach campaign" aimed at ensuring people are aware of the hoops they have to jump through to keep their Medicaid coverage, such as income verification.
In Florida, a four-person household must make less than $39,900 in annual income to qualify for Medicaid.
The state's early data indicates that 44% of those who have lost coverage in weeks were removed for procedural reasons like failing to return paperwork on time.
The figures have drawn outrage from local advocates, who urged DeSantis late last month to pause the Medicaid redetermination process after hearing reports of people losing coverage without receiving any notice from Florida's chronically understaffed Department of Children and Families (DCF).
"One of these individuals is a seven-year-old boy in remission from Leukemia who is now unable to access follow-up—and potentially lifesaving—treatments," a coalition of groups including the Florida Policy Institute and the Florida Health Justice Project wrote to DeSantis. "Families with children have been erroneously terminated, and parents are having trouble reaching the DCF call center for help with this process. Additionally, unclear notices and lack of information on how to appeal contribute to more confusion."
Citing Miriam Harmatz, advocacy director and founder of the Florida Health Justice Project, KFF Health Newsreported last week that "some cancellation notices in Florida are vague and could violate due process rules."
"Letters that she's seen say 'your Medicaid for this period is ending' rather than providing a specific reason for disenrollment, like having too high an income or incomplete paperwork," the outlet noted. "If a person requests a hearing before their cancellation takes effect, they can stay covered during the appeals process. Even after being disenrolled, many still have a 90-day window to restore coverage."
The Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that, nationwide, around 15.5 million people are likely to lose Medicaid coverage over the next year and a half—including 5 million children—as states resume eligibility checks made necessary by a system that doesn't guarantee healthcare to all as a right.
"Many people don't realize that they've been disenrolled from Medicaid until they show up at the pharmacy to get their prescription refilled or they have a doctor's appointment scheduled," Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, toldThe Washington Post last week.
Will the Democrat from West Virginia go to bat for the billionaire-backed No Labels?
Sen. Joe Manchin—the West Virginia lawmaker reviled by progressives for his climate-killing policies and many Democrats over his repeated sabotage of his own party's agenda—said Sunday he has still not decided about whether he might make a third-party run for president in 2024.
Asked by "Fox News Sunday" host Shannon Bream if he's decided on a possible run with the billionaire-backed "No Labels" or otherwise, Manchin applauded the group "pushing very hard to the centrist middle" and "making commonsense decisions," but dodged a direct answer to the question.
"If Plan A shows that we're going to the far reaches of both sides, the far left and the far right, and the people don't want to go to the far left and the far right, they want to be governed from the middle," Manchin said. "I think there is… you better have that Plan B available and ready to go."
When pressed by Bream on his consideration of a presidential run, Manchin replied, "Not ruling anything in, not ruling anything out."
\u201cSen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) hits extremism on the left and right but does not give a straight answer to Fox's Shannon Bream when she asks whether he'll run as a third-party candidate on a No Labels ticket.\u201d— The Recount (@The Recount) 1685886740
Last month, as Common Dreamsreported, journalists with More Perfect Union dove into the secretive funding of No Labels—which offers itself as a harmless, more middle-of-the-road option to the two major political parties in the U.S.—and found that much of the money behind the group comes from "a whole lot of billionaires with a history of opposing democracy."
\u201cA group calling themselves "No Labels" has suddenly emerged as a huge financial backer of Kyrsten Sinema.\n\nThey're also floating the idea of running Joe Manchin for President.\n\nWe dug into them, and found a whole lot of billionaires with a history of opposing democracy.\u201d— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1684768082
In a 2018 column, financial industry watchdogs Porter McConnell and Rion Dennis identified No Labels as part of a cabal of so-called "centrists" who are really just "wolves of Wall Street in sheep's clothing," hiding behind their harmless-sounding name to mask very insidious intent.
"For years, the group No Labels and its close partner, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, have quietly promoted policies that are wrapped in the mantle of bipartisanship and pitched as "non-ideological," while being in the pay of corporate interests," McConnell and Dennis explained. "They produce reports, sponsor events, and weigh in on policy on behalf of unnamed corporate donors."
Critics of a No Labels' candidate in 2024 say it's strikingly obvious that the true motive for such a move would be to slice off enough gullible voters to create a path for Donald Trump's reelection.
Manchin is up for reelection this year to defend his U.S. Senate seat, but according to a poll released last week he is currently trailing the top Republican challenger, Gov. Jim Justice, by 22 points in a hypothetical general election contest.