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January 19, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 03
 
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Supporter of anti-Gay constitutional amendment to head Democratic Leadership Council
Supporter of anti-Gay constitutional amendment to head Democratic Leadership Council
Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. accused of anti-Gay campaign tactics

by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

A group that aspires to reform the Democratic Party to appeal to a greater number of voters has chosen a new chairman who is best known to Gay activists for having abandoned support for equal rights for Gays in order to pursue higher office.

Former U.S. Rep. Harold Ford Jr. is best known to the rest of the country for almost winning the U.S. Senate seat from Tennessee last November a race closely watched not only because it was close but because the control of the Senate was teetering between Republicans and Democrats.

He was tapped this month to serve as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, an organization closely associated with former President Bill Clinton, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and others. The groups mission, it says, is modernizing progressive politics in the United States. But its principles include such thoughts as equal opportunity for all, special privileges for none.

In an essay for the DLCs website, Ford characterizes Gay marriage, abortion, and gun control as wedge issues used by the Republicans as divisive diversionary tactics to hide the appalling governing failures of the last six years.

But some Gay activists say Ford used same-sex marriage as a campaign tactic himself, vigorously touting his opposition to same-sex marriage and his support for an amendment to the state and U.S. constitutions to ban it.

It was a change from his first term in Congress, when his voting record merited a perfect 100 score from the Human Rights Campaign. That score dropped to 40 during his second term and to 25 during his last and final term. Twice, he voted for a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage (the proposal failed both times).

Jim Maynard, president of Memphis Stonewall Democrats, said that, while Ford had told Gays in Memphis that he opposes same-sex marriage, he told them he thought a constitutional amendment was unnecessary because of the Defense of Marriage Act, which Ford also supported. But in September 2004, he shocked Gay constituents in Tennessee when he voted for the proposed amendment to the federal constitution.

It was a shock to Gays and Lesbians in Memphis, and needless to say, we were not happy with his anti-Gay campaign, said Maynard.

A columnist for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper wrote last October that Ford is telling anyone who will listen that he's against Gay marriage, a message tailored to win him votes east of his home base.

On his Senate campaign website last year, Ford said, I will continue to be pro-family, including supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, without taking away the civil rights of Gays and Lesbians.

Stonewall Democrats, a national Gay Democratic organization, issued a press release last week expressing deep concern over the choice of Ford to lead the Democratic Leadership Council.

Stonewall Executive Director Joanne Wyrick said that Fords willingness to lightly amend the U.S. Constitution and to exploit Gay families for political gain should alarm Democrats across the country.

David Mixner, a longtime Gay Democratic activist who organized a significant fundraising effort for Bill Clintons election to office in 1992, said the Democratic Leadership Council, which both Hillary and Bill Clinton helped form, has never been very good on LGBT issues.

Now, with the addition of Harold Ford, wrote Mixner in a January 12 entry to his political blog davidmixner.com, they will simply be worse.

Mixner said Fords two votes for a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage should be reason enough to disqualify him from heading any organization associated with the leadership of the Democratic Party. If the measure had passed, said Mixner, it would have created a system of apartheid for the LGBT community codified in the United States Constitution.

Mixner urged that No one should contribute to the DLC or support it if Ford becomes its new chairman. He noted Fords aggressive support last year for a ballot measure to amend the Tennessee constitution to ban same-sex marriage and legal recognition of other same-sex relationships.

Ford campaigned saying he would be the first in line to vote for the Tennessee amendment, noted Mixner. The LGBT community and it allies should never forget his advocacy on behalf of these amendments. We also should not give a pass to straight friends who think these actions are no big deal. by Lisa Keen - SGN Contributing Writer

The White House this week withdrew its nomination of several controversial federal judges, including one who was considered to be "horrific" on the Americans with Disabilities Act and another who believed the constitutional provides no right to privacy.

The latter, William G. Myers III, was nominated to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which covers California, Oregon, Washington, and several other western states. According to the Alliance for Justice, a judicial watchdog group, Myers was aligned with anti-Gay federal judge Robert Bork and supported the 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bowers v. Hardwick which upheld state laws prohibiting consensual sex between same-sex partners (the high court's Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003 reversed that ruling).

Terrence Boyle, a former aide to the notoriously anti-Gay U.S. Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC), was nominated by President Bush to serve on the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals bench. The 4th Circuit covers Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

The Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund and other Gay organizations opposed Boyle's nomination, which has been pending for three years, saying he had a "clear hostility towards civil rights claims and blatant disregard for the law." Lambda Executive Director Kevin Cathcart issued a statement Tuesday, praising the "congressional leadership" for "making clear that Judge Boyles's nomination would face serious opposition."

An aide to Helms and a graduate of the Bob Jones University law school who has been serving as a judge on the U.S. District Court in Raleigh, N.C. Lambda Legal characterized his record on the Americans with Disabilities Act as "horrific."

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability, including HIV infection, and requires employers to make a "reasonable accommodation" to enable a person with a disability to continue working. But the law also allows for employers an exemption to the law if making such an accommodation would impose an "undue hardship" on their business.

Lambda said Boyle consistently sided with employers in ADA cases. "He ruled that courts should defer to an employer's opinion of whether a reasonable accommodation has been made to a disabled employee," said Lambda in a statement released Tuesday. "At the time that Lambda Legal opposed Boyle's nomination there were no cases in the public record where Boyle ruled in favor of a plaintiff in an ADA case."

Boyle, a U.S. district court judge in eastern North Carolina, has actually participated in a number of 4th Circuit cases as a "designated" judge for the court, a role some judges are given a chance to play, usually to help with heavy caseloads. He was originally appointed by President Reagan to the district court; and was first nominated for an appeals court position by President George H.W. Bush. His nomination was opposed by numerous civil rights groups and was twice blocked by U.S. Senator John Edwards (D-NC) when he served in the Senate.

The White House decision to withdraw Boyle's nomination -and that of three other controversial nominees to federal appeals courts- is being widely interpreted as a sign that the Bush administration knows it can't get the nominations approved by the new Democratic led Senate.

The Associated Press reported that the White House informed Boyle it was withdrawing his nomination, but the other three nominees reportedly asked that their nominations be withdrawn following the November elections which swept Democrats into the majority in both the House and Senate.

The other two nominees were William Haynes, general counsel at the Pentagon, and Michael Wallace of Mississippi, who had clerked for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist who amassed one of the worst records on the bench concerning Gay civil rights.

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