‘Power The Polls’ To Help Ensure A Fair Election In November

(photo: James Emery/Flickr – CC License)

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

To say the hope for America, our Democracy, and the preservation of the US Constitution hang in the balance come November 3rd would be an understatement.

Exacerbating the situation and everyone’s already heightened anxiety is the knowledge that foreign governments have and are interfering in our free and fair elections.

Now, add the coronavirus pandemic and the integrity of Election Day is in serious jeopardy. But you can help “Power The Polls.”

From their website,

“Our democracy depends on ordinary people who make sure elections run smoothly and everyone’s vote is counted. This year, we’re facing an unprecedented shortage of poll workers that could mean closed polling places and long delays. You can help make sure we have a safe, fair, efficient election for all voters.

“Power the Polls is a first-of-its-kind initiative to recruit poll workers to ensure a safe, fair election for all voters.

“This is a critical moment. America is in the midst of a nationwide poll worker shortage.

“We aim to inspire upwards of 250,000 Americans to sign up as poll workers this year.”

Click here to see how you can help Power the Polls today!

“Hi, I’m Larry and I’ll Be Your Poll Worker”

In 2018, I became a certified New York state poll worker when the Trumpfuckery of the day intersected with the certainty of Russian interference in our elections and awoke my sense of civic duty.  I had to do more than, “Go Vote!”

It’s not a glamorous gig by any stretch of the imagination.  The first time I set my alarm for 3:30 AM to be at the polling site by 5 AM, my cell phone replied, “Seriously, Bitch?”

It’s not rocket science. But you’d be surprised at the level of detail and redundancy required to ensure security and the level commitment poll workers bring to the work.

It ain’t about the money either.  It varies by state but in New York, it pays $100 for 4 hours of training (if you pass the open-book test and work an election). Election Day pay is $250 for roughly a 17 hour day (including 2 one hour breaks). It goes surprisingly fast.

What they don’t tell you about are all the truly diverse and wonderful people you’ll work with.  At my polling place, you name it, we probably got it!

Something else they don’t tell you about are the voters.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some crazy ass people compelled to tell you everything wrong with the American political system. #BlessTheirHeart

But it’s the line of voters waiting AT 6 muthafing AM for the polls to open; the excited first-time voters; families who come to vote together; voters who are so clearly immigrant citizens; disabled voters who could vote by mail but show up, when so may Americans don’t bother to even vote; and the parents who are bringing their child to see them vote, and giving them an “I Voted” sticker too. #FacesLightUp

Admittedly Americans would be better off if we all had mail-in ballots, but we don’t. Every state needs poll workers in November, so does the future of our democracy.  What’s one day out of your life, so your state on Election Day doesn’t look like Wisconsin or Georgia did on their primaries?

Or worse yet,  November 4, 2020, doesn’t look like Groundhog Day, November 9, 2016?

Learn more about becoming a poll worker in your state by heading over to WorkElections.com.

Work Elections is a project of The Fair Elections Center, a national, nonpartisan voting rights and election reform 501(c)(3) organization based in Washington, D.C.

Their mission is to use litigation and advocacy to remove barriers to registration and voting, particularly those disenfranchising underrepresented and marginalized communities, and to improve election administration.

 

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has written for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.

Congressman John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon, Dead At 80

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), an icon in the fight for civil rights for decades, has died at the age of 80 after his battle with pancreatic cancer.

I’m careful not to write “passed away,” because Lewis never merely “passed” anything in his storied life.

The youngest of the Big Six civil rights activists, Lewis garnered national headlines after leading hundreds of protesters in the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.

Knocked to the ground and beaten by Alabama state troopers, Lewis’s skull was fractured and images of the infamous moment were spread across the country, crystallizing the civil rights movement to such a degree the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed shortly thereafter.

The civil rights lion was elected to Congress over 20 years later representing his district in Atlanta, Georgia.

And from the New York Times:

Mr. Lewis led demonstrations against racially segregated restrooms, hotels, restaurants, public parks and swimming pools, and he rose up against other indignities of second-class citizenship. At nearly every turn he was beaten, spat upon or burned with cigarettes. He was tormented by white mobs and absorbed body blows from law enforcement.

Mr. Lewis was arrested 40 times from 1960 to 1966. He was repeatedly beaten senseless by Southern policemen and freelance hoodlums. During the Freedom Rides in 1961, he was left unconscious in a pool of his own blood outside the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Montgomery, Ala., after he and others were attacked by hundreds of white people. He spent countless days and nights in county jails and 31 days in Mississippi’s notoriously brutal Parchman Penitentiary.

Lewis didn’t restrict his battles to civil rights for Black Americans. He was also an early ally of the LGBTQ movement.

In 2003, he penned an op-ed for the Boston Globe arguing in favor of same-sex marriage long before others would come to embrace that call.

We are now at such a crossroads over same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. It is time to say forthrightly that the government’s exclusion of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters from civil marriage officially degrades them and their families. It denies them the basic human right to marry the person they love. It denies them numerous legal protections for their families.

This discrimination is wrong. We cannot keep turning our backs on gay and lesbian Americans. I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.

In the 1990s, he voted against the heinous ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ which defined marriage as only between a man and a woman, and he stood with the pro-LGBTQ advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign. He also voiced his opposition to Georgia’s prohibition on adoption by LGBTQ people.

One of my favorite tributes was from Lewis’s friend and former UN ambassador, Andrew Young: “He didn’t convince you by his arguments. He convinced you by his life.”

People much more eloquent than I offered their tributes to Lewis.

Rest in power, John Lewis.

Celebrating Gay Civil Rights Icon, Harvey Milk on His 90th Birthday

LGBTQ rights icon Harvey Milk (image via TheOUTFront)

 

Guest post by Lawrence Pfeil, Jr.

Born May 22, 1930, Harvey Milk is listed as one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Important People of the 20th Century,” because he spoke out not only for LGBTQ people but women, people of color and other communities living on the margins.

“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words.
That is what America is about.”

A Naval and Korean War Veteran, Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected in California, to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in1977. At a time when anti-gay ballot issues were winning across the country, Milk and his coalition were a major force in defeating California’s “Prop. 6 Briggs’ Initiative” that mandated firing teachers for being gay.

“It takes no compromise to give people their rights, it takes no money to respect the individual.
It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

He was the first openly gay man elected to public office; but more than that, he won that election a mere eight years after the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969.

His message of inclusion, the value of the marginalized, which he built his representative coalition around, also help elect the first Asian American man and African American woman to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. In his short eleven months in office, he spearheaded the defeat of California’s “Brigg’s Initiative” which would have prohibited gays and lesbians from teaching in schools.

Like Abraham Lincoln, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, the gay civil rights leader and champion of equality and justice, knew what history held in store. What Harvey Milk could not have known was the recording he made in the event of his murder would be played just nine days later, when a white, Christian, anti-gay, straight, gunman assassinated him and San Francisco Mayor, George Moscone in their City Hall offices on November 27, 1978.

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

While it is impossible to imagine what Harvey Milk might have gone on to achieve had he not been killed, it’s plain to see the lasting impact his living legacy has had on the LGBT+ Community and America as a whole.

He has received countless honors posthumously, including a Naval ship named after him; the first postal stamp recognizing an openly gay American, a critically acclaimed biopic; and our country’s highest honor given to a civilian, the Medal of Freedom, presented by President Obama in 2009.

In 1985, The Times of Harvey Milk, narrated by Harvey Fierstein, became the first gay-themed film by openly LGBTQ filmmakers to win an Academy Award.

The stirring documentary focuses on an ordinary man who believed in ordinary values but made extraordinary accomplishments by giving everyone hope. It’s colorfully told by the vibrant and dedicated people who were a part of the movement and is profoundly moving.

But greater than all these is the lasting legacy Harvey Milk gave us in his words and wisdom.

It is striking in comparison to today’s divisive social and political rhetoric, that Harvey Milk succeeded in bringing people together by speaking of hope. He spoke of and to the “us’s” as equal people in our communities, that the marginalized matter.

“The fact is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason.
That, that my friends, that is true perversion!”

“I have tasted freedom. I will not give up that which I have tasted.”

“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”

“It’s not my victory, it’s yours and yours and yours. If a gay can win, it means there is hope that the system can work for all minorities if we fight. We’ve given them hope.”

“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”

“If you are not personally free to be yourself in that most important of all human activities… the expression of love… then life itself loses its meaning.”

“Hope is never silent.”

 

Lawrence Pfeil, Jr., is a freelance writer/playwright who has reviewed film and theatre, both on and off-Broadway, for media outlets including The Randy Report, the New York Blade, and Edge Publications. You can follow him at TheOUTfront.com.

Anti-LGBTQ Baker Agrees To A Ceasefire With Colorado Civil Rights Commission

Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop

Anti-LGBTQ baker Jack Phillips has agreed to call it a draw with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Phillips was brought up on charges by the commission for declining to make a pink and blue cake in 2017 celebrating a transgender woman’s transition.

Autumn Scardina, a Denver attorney, asked Phillips to make a blue and pink cake celebrating both her birthday and the anniversary of her transition.

The commission found, with probable cause, that Phillips had discriminated against Scardina due to her gender identity, a violation of the state’s public accommodation laws.

Phillips filed a counter-lawsuit against the commission alleging persecution for his Christian faith.

On Tuesday, Phillips’ attorneys and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser mutually agreed to drop both legal actions.

Weiser told the local CBS news affiliate that both sides “agreed it was not in anyone’s best interest to move forward with these cases.”

Regarding whether religious beliefs can trump public accommodation laws intended to protect LGBTs from discrimination in his state, Weiser said, “The larger constitutional issues might well be decided down the road, but these cases will not be the vehicle for resolving them.”

“Equal justice for all will continue to be a core value that we will uphold as we enforce our state’s and nation’s civil rights laws,” he added.

But attorneys for the anti-LGBTQ legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented Phillips, claimed there was “overwhelming evidence” of hostility towards Phillips by the state.

The Denver Post reports Phillips issued a statement saying, “Today is a win for freedom.”

“I have and will always serve everyone who comes into my shop,” added Phillips. “I simply can’t celebrate events or express messages that conflict with my religious beliefs.”

Phillips famously waged a six-year battle with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission after turning away a gay couple seeking a cake to celebrate their marriage in 2012.

The fight went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Phillips won in a narrow ruling saying the commission showed anti-religious bias in determining its sanctions on Phillips.

The issue of religious freedoms over LGBT civil rights was not resolved in that case.

The Denver Post notes that the agreement between Phillips and the CCRC does not preclude Scardina from moving ahead with any legal action of her own.

(h/t Denver Post, CBSDenver)

Trump Celebrates The ‘Abolition’ Of Civil Rights

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, Donald Trump celebrated the great strides our country has made thanks to people of faith, like "the abolition of civil rights."
Donald Trump celebrates the ‘abolition’ of civil rights

Speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning, Donald Trump celebrated the great strides our country has made thanks to people of faith, like “the abolition of civil rights.”

“Since the founding of our nation, many of our greatest strides, from gaining our independence to abolition of civil rights, to extending the vote for women, have been led by people of faith and started in prayer. When we open our hearts to faith we fill our hearts with love.”

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Abolition – the act of officially ending or stopping something.

Some pundits say Trump misspoke, but considering the many attacks on LGBTQ civil rights by religious zealots, this seems pretty accurate.

By the way, what is up with Trump’s low-energy delivery of this speech? He drops off the ends of sentences like he just has no interest whatsoever in what he’s saying.

Linda Brown, Of Brown v. Board Of Education, Passes Away At 76

Linda Brown, became one of the most famous symbols of the 20th century civil rights movement when she was denied registration at the all-white school just a few blocks from her home in 1950, has passed away at the age of 76.

Her parents weren’t unhappy with the black school she attended, but were concerned for the long distance Linda had to travel. Over train tracks, a busy road and then a bus ride each day to get to school. And then, the winter would come.

Her father became angry when they were turned away, and thus began a series of events that would result in a historic ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, all nine white male justices would rule that “separate but equal” was not and never would be equal.

The 1954 ruling changes decades of educational practices, and still reverberates in schools today.

Even after the ruling, it took three years for black students to enroll in an Arkansas high school. And it was only with a contingent of federal guards that those nine students were able to walk onto the school campus.

Justice Department Says North Carolina “Bathroom Law” Violates US Civil Rights Act

The Justice Department has issued a statement saying North Carolina’s recently passed HB2, which prohibits transgender folks from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity, violates Title IX, which bars discrimination in education based on sex, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination.

Via CNN:

The Justice Department has sent a letter to the governor of North Carolina notifying him that the state’s transgender law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act, according to a Justice Department official.

House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. The law also reserves the right to pass nondiscrimination legislation to the state government, saying state laws pre-empt any local ordinances.

Should the ruling be upheld North Carolina stands to lose over $860 million in federal education funds.

State Rep. Chris Sgro, who is also the executive director of Equality NC, issued a statement which said in part, “The letter confirms what we’ve already known – that HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible. We’ve already lost $500 million in economic impact and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title VII funding.”

From the letter to North Carolina:

“Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual on the basis of sex and from otherwise resisting the full enjoyment of Title VII rights….

“Federal courts and administrative agencies have applied Title VII to discrimination against transgender individuals based on sex, including gender identity….

“Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII …

“HB 2…is facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex because it treats transgender employees, whose gender identity does not match their biological sex, as defined by HB2, differently from similarly situated non transgender employees…

Based upon the above, we have concluded that in violation of Title VII, the state is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by employees of public agencies…

“Please advise the department, therefore, no later than the close of business on May 9, 2016, whether you will remedy these violations of Title VII including by confirming that the state will not comply with or implement HB2….

No response yet from Gov. Pat McCrory.

Status Of Alabama Counties Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

The Washington Post shares this update of the current status of counties in Alabama which are (or are not) issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Stay tuned as the situation in Alabama continues to be fluid. Last night in an interview with the AP, Gov. Robert Bentley seemed to be relenting a bit as he seems concerned about how this mess reflects on Alabama as a whole on the issue of civil rights:

The governor noted that Alabama is about to be in the spotlight again with the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after civil rights marchers were attacked and beaten in Selma, Alabama — events chronicled in the Oscar-nominated movie “Selma.”

“I don’t want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I’m not going to do that,” Bentley said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.

“I’m trying to move this state forward.”

In the past hour, the list grew by three as Limestone, Morgan and Elmore counties are now reportedly complying with Judge Granade’s ruling.

Department Of Justice Says Title VII Bans Workplace Discrimination Against Transgender People

According to a memo released by US Attorney General Eric Holder, the Department of Justice will now interpret Title VII of the Civil Rights Act as explicitly prohibiting workplace discrimination against transgender people.

The AP reports that “in defending lawsuits, the federal government also will no longer take the position that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination, does not protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender status.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughters believe he would support gay rights today

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

And in light of that, Katie Couric spoke with the daughters of President Lyndon B. Johnson about the issue of civil rights, and the idea that marriage equality has become the current civil rights fight of today.

Lynda Bird Johnson Robb says that while she doesn’t know what her father would think of gay rights today since they weren’t on the political landscape at the time, she does know “he really wanted everybody to be able to live up to the best that God gave them.”

Luci Baines Johnson says that she believes he would stand in support of gay rights because he wanted everyone to be treated fairly. “I think my father felt very strongly that when there was bigotry anywhere, prejudice anywhere, all of us lose out,” Johnson said. “Because it’s just one more expression of hate.”

Both women share that they personally support the freedom to marry. “I certainly think that, if God made you a homosexual, that you should have love and affection with somebody,” Robb said. “And I would not want to deny anybody that opportunity to be happy.”

Watch the interview below: