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CA17: Khanna disavows Ernie Konnyu’s words

Apropos of my “please don’t help me” story in Monday’s editions, Democratic congressional candidate Ro Khanna on Tuesday repudiated the words of one of his most vocal Republican supporters.

Ernie KonnyuGOP former congressman Ernie Konnyu already had complicated Khanna’s life a bit by trying to rally tea party support for his bid to unseat Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose. More recently, Konnyu drew unwanted attention by getting into a Facebook argument with Republican former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen – who has endorsed Honda – over the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC’s support of Assembly candidate and Campbell councilman Evan Low. Low has led the fight on lifting the Food and Drug Administration’s ban on blood donation by gay men.

“How sick is it that a business group endorses a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays,” Konnyu wrote on Friday, Aug. 8. “This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Konnyu has accused Honda’s staff and supporters of waging a “war of hate,” using “demonizing tweets” against him for his comments; last Thursday, he tweeted a challenge to Honda to introduce a bill to overturn the FDA policy.

Low and others issued a statement Tuesday urging Khanna to disavow Konnyu’s remarks.

“His continued silence on this issue raises concerns that he may share Konnyu’s views, and I urge him to join me, Congressman Honda, and the thousands of Americans nationwide who would like to see the FDA change its views,” Low wrote.

James Gonzales, president of the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee – a Silicon Valley LGBT political group – said “this kind of homophobic rhetoric has no place in our politics, from any politician of any party. We hope that Ro Khanna will quickly condemn these comments by Konnyu and denounce his support.”

Khanna issued a statement later Tuesday saying his positions and record “on defending marriage equality and the rights for all people is unequivocal.

Ro Khanna“I believe that any laws discriminating against LGBT individuals are unconstitutional. Full stop. While I am proud of all the support this campaign has received, I find any discriminatory statements from my supporters – whether they be homophobic, racist, or sexist – to be completely unacceptable and not reflective of my or my campaign,” he said.

Khanna said he has always respected Low’s public service, but Low now “has marginalized what could have been legitimate advocacy by recklessly saying that I could possibly agree with discrimination. This striking example of hypocrisy represents the worst of politics.”

Honda and Low remained silent when a union-backed national super PAC sent out a mailer just before June’s primary election that said Khanna’s policies would send jobs overseas and “outsource our jobs,” Khanna noted – a mailer Khanna calls “racially coded and xenophobic.”

“Unlike Congressman Honda, I will always speak up when those who support me use language that is not in line with my values,” Khanna said.

The FDA’s policy dates back to 1983 and has been in place in its current form since 1992 but is opposed by the American Medical Association and the American Red Cross, which say the current lifetime deferral for men who have had sex with other men is medically and scientifically unwarranted. Honda in 2008 supported San Jose State University’s effort to bring attention to the issue by suspending campus blood drives; started a petition against the ban last year that has been signed by more than 51,000 people; and has joined with several dozen other members of Congress in urging the FDA to lift the ban.

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Texas GOP endorses ‘reparative therapy’ for gays

The Texas Republican Party now endorses what it calls “reparative therapy” for gay and lesbian people.

The party adopted this as part of its platform at its convention Sunday in Fort Worth after the Texas Eagle Forum tea party group urged endorsement of therapy to turn gay people straight. Thus the party now recognizes “the legitimacy and efficacy of counseling, which offers reparative therapy and treatment for those patients seeking healing and wholeness from their homosexual lifestyle.”

Speaking for myself, I endorse reparative therapy and treatment for Texas Republicans because, after all, who would want to live that way?

As a practical matter, the willful ignorance here is staggering. The American Psychological Association and other major health organizations have condemned such counseling, especially for minors, because of the danger of serious psychological harm.

As a political matter, it’s suicide. Consider Gallup’s trend lines:

gallup - legal

gallup - marriage

Please note that I confine this criticism to Texas Republicans. I know there are Republicans across the nation – and perhaps particularly here in California – who read news of the Texas GOP’s whack-jobbiness, do a swift facepalm and exclaim, “What is WRONG with you people?”

It’s amazing that anyone who claims to stand for conservatism, small government, individual rights and personal responsibility would simultaneously believe a political party should say anything about whom one can be sexually attracted to and/or love. It’s hypocrisy of the highest order, piled atop a foundation of bigotry based either in fundamentalist religious dogma or plain old xenophobia.

I believe the Republican Party has a future, but I also believe the Texas Republicans who are now holed up in their ideological Alamo are standing in that future’s way.

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Swalwell: Move Super Bowl if AZ enacts LGBT law

The National Football League should commit to moving 2015’s Super Bowl out of Arizona if that state enacts a law letting businesses refuse to serve people because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, Rep. Eric Swalwell said Wednesday.

Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging him to level the threat. (Goodell’s brother, Michael, is gay and was quoted this month on NFL prospect Michael Sam’s decision to publicly disclose his sexuality.)

“In a recent statement, the NFL recognized that its policy emphasizes tolerance and inclusiveness, and I’m asking the NFL to stand by its words,” Swalwell said in a news reelase. “Arizona is fortunate to be the host of the 2015 Super Bowl, and I urge the NFL to commit to moving the 2015 Super Bowl from Arizona if the anti-gay SB 1062 is signed into law. In doing so, it would send a powerful signal that the NFL will not stand by while discriminatory laws are enacted.”

Arizona’s SB 1062 has been passed by both chambers of that state’s legislature, and Gov. Jan Brewer has until Friday to sign or veto it; news reports have said she’s leaning toward the latter, but it’s not yet clear what she’ll do.

(UPDATE @ 4:50 P.M.: It’s a moot point now; Brewer just announced she has vetoed the bill.)

Read Swalwell’s letter, after the jump…
Continue Reading

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Candidate likens ‘Duck Dynasty’ guy to Rosa Parks

I’ve tried to avoid this “Duck Dynasty” thing – I mean, who can be surprised by a redneck saying something inherently redneck? – but one politician has pushed it beyond the pale.

ian-bayneIan Bayne – a Republican candidate who’s challenging Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., for Illinois’ 11th House Districtissued a statement today calling Phil Robertson “the ‘Rosa Parks’ of our generation.”

“In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,” said Bayne. “What Parks did was courageous. What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.”

Let us review.

In an interview with GQ, Robertson said:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

And, asked what he considers sinful:

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

He also had this to say about African Americans:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

Courageous?

Robertson probably was being honest about his religious views, and he has an absolute right to hold and voice those views – just as A&E has an absolute right to deny him a broadcast platform, and those who disagree with him have an absolute right to ostracize him for believing that all men are not created equal.

Our nation is not a theocracy; nobody’s religious belief gives them the right to hold themselves on a pedestal over others without being called on it. And pointing out someone’s intolerance isn’t itself intolerance, or persecution. If the camouflage hunting boot fits, wear it, Mr. Robertson.

But Bayne’s analogy reveals his own amazing ignorance.

Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who believed in equality, and stood up for it (actually, remained sitting for it) with quiet dignity.

Phil Robertson is a reality TV star who deems some people better, holier, worth more than others because of who they do or don’t love, because he believes God wants that – the antithesis of equality. He also seems to believe that his narrow personal window on the Jim Crow South has some resemblance to the reality lived by millions of Africans Americans, which it demonstrably does not.

And Ian Bayne is either a blithering idiot or a shameless panderer.

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CA17: Honda on Obamacare, Khanna on women

Rep. Mike Honda will host a town hall meeting on how Obamacare’s implementation will affect his 17th District constituents. Representatives from Covered California – the state’s health benefit exchange created under the Affordable Care Act, which starts enrollment Oct. 1 – will attend the meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3 in the Fremont Senior Center, 40086 Paseo Padre Parkway.

Honda, D-San Jose, earlier this week announced more than 49,000 people across the nation had signed his petition to end the Food and Drug Administration’s policy of banning all blood donations from gay and bi-sexual men. (As of now, more than 50,000 have signed, still short of the 75,000 he’d sought. see update below) The policy has been in effect for more than 30 years, but the issue rose to prominence in his district this summer after Campbell Mayor Evan Low was turned away from a blood drive he’d organized. Honda notes he’s been urging a change in the policy since 2008, when San Jose State University suspended campus blood drives because of the ban.

Honda’s Democratic challenger, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna of Fremont, held a Women’s Equality Day event at his campaign office Monday night to roll out his “Women in the Workplace Agenda.” The plan includes promoting family-friendly work environments, removing workplace inequities, increasing women in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and supporting women entrepreneurs.

Khanna and his campaign volunteers will be pounding the pavement this Saturday in San Jose.

UPDATE @ 1:22 P.M.: A clarification – I’m told that Honda’s petition’s signature goal automatically increases as various thresholds are surpassed. So, the goal increased from 50,000 to 75,000 when the 50k mark was passed.

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Activists react to bill to revoke Scouts’ tax breaks

A new California bill that would end tax breaks for youth groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation, including the Boy Scouts of America, is stirring both grassroots support and opposition.

Some California organizations, defined in a similar way to non-profit organizations under federal law, get exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell, such as the popcorn Scouts often sell to raise funds. SB 323 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, would end this exemption for youth groups that discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers; it also would require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

BSA“Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians,” Lara said Tuesday in a news release announcing the bill. “SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.”

An online petition launched by an activist and former Boy Scout to urge this bill’s passage already has more than 8,300 signatures. Petitioner Eddie Kurtz, who works with the Courage Campaign, said he joined as a Cub Scout and finished at the rank of Life Scout, one short of the Eagle Scout award.

“Scouting stands for the finest qualities of humanity: self-reliance, creativity, and an appreciation of nature. Most of all, we were taught how to act as responsible, respectful citizens,” Kurtz said in a news release Thursday. “This is why the Boy Scouts’ continued policy of excluding members based on their sexual orientation is so upsetting to me. It flies in the face of the very values that the scouting tradition professes to teach. As a straight ally, I can’t sit idle while the current leaders of the Boy Scouts disgrace this once-proud American institution with their personal bigotry.”

But the conservative Pacific Justice Institute will be working to oppose the bill; the group’s website refers to SB 323 as “forced lifestyle acceptance.”

“From the plain text of this bill, it is clear to us that SB 323 is one of the most outrageous bills we have seen in California — and that’s saying a lot,” PJI President Brad Dacus said in a news release Thursday. “We have been warning for years that the gay lobby would eventually use tax exemptions to force non-profits to capitulate to their demands, but it’s still shocking to see it actually in print and on its way to becoming law.”

Because SB 323 would essentially raise taxes on some organizations, it will require a 2/3 vote in each legislative chamber in order to pass – a majority Democrats attained in last November’s election.

The Boy Scouts of America’s executive board this month delayed a decision on whether to change its long-standing policy of excluding LGBT youths and adults; the organization’s full national council is expected to revisit the issue in May.

(Full disclosure: I’m an Eagle Scout, and a registered committee member in my son’s troop.)