An anti-tax group has made opposing Cincinnati’s planned streetcar project its primary cause in recent years, so it might be surprising to now find one of its leaders teaming up with a major streetcar advocate.
But that’s exactly what is happening later this month as Chris Finney, of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), co-hosts a political fundraiser with Chris Bortz, an ex-Cincinnati city councilman.
But boy what a difference a gay son and two years of reflection make.
Portman had to prepare his own coming out speech yesterday, this one to his GOP senatorial brothers and sisters, none of which support same-sex marriage. Imagine how nervous he must have been, sleeves rolled up, flag pin hanging slightly askew as he spoke to reporters in response to the op-ed he published supporting gay marriage. If he stuttered at all it’s not because he wasn’t earnest — he just really loves his son.Two years ago Portman’s son, Will, was a freshman at Yale when he came home and explained that being gay “was not a choice,” which seems to have resonated with Dad. Portman consulted with religious leaders and other men who have been anti-gay even though they have close family members who are homosexual, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who probably said something like, “Dude, it doesn’t matter anymore now that Obama is talking about queers in the State of the Union and shit. Roll Tide.”
Portman explained his new found interest in respecting millions of fellow humans this way: "[I want] him to have the same opportunities that his brother and sister would have — to have a relationship like Jane and I have had for over 26 years.”
Portman says he would like to see congress overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, a redundant and discriminatory piece of legislation banning federal recognition of gay marriage, which he helped pass in 1996. But he still doesn’t think the federal government should tread on the states and make them recognize it if they don’t want to.
Meanwhile, in Washington Harbor, Md., Republicans at the Conservative Political Action Conference yesterday discussed their bigotry during a panel called "A Rainbow on the Right: Growing the Coalition." The featured speaker was Jimmy LaSalvia, whose Republican gay-rights organization GOProud wasn’t allowed to sponsor the conference.
While gay-rights leaders celebrate the support and the possibility of other powerful Republicans realizing that they know and care about someone who is different, the announcement brings attention to other conservatives trying to remove yuckiness from the party’s official stance on homosexuality and gay marriage.
NBC News today recapped a few other Republicans who have recently come out in support of gay-marriage:
Jon Huntsman, a GOP presidential candidate in 2012 who had endorsed civil unions, said this year that he supports marriage rights. Furthermore, he framed it in conservative terms.
"There is nothing conservative about denying other Americans the ability to forge that same relationship with the person they love," he wrote.
And Theodore Olson, a former solicitor general for President George W. Bush, has been one of the lead attorneys challenging California's Proposition 8, a ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage in that state. (Portman fretted in his op-ed that a court decision might hamper the political movement toward legalizing gay and lesbian weddings.)
And Fred Malek, a Republican power-broker, told NBC News this week that conservatives shouldn't feel threatened by gays and lesbian couples who wish to marry.
"I've always felt that marriage is between a man and a woman, but other people don't agree with that," he said. "People should be able to live their lives the way they choose. And it's not going to threaten our overall value system or our country to allow gays to marry, if that's what they want to do."
Nearly a quarter of Republicans reportedly support same-sex rights, leaving the door open for plenty more GOP leaders to search for gay family members on Facebook who might offer insight inspirational enough to frame their own stories of new found compassion and respect for other people.
The Ohio Elections Commission today dismissed a complaint filed by Cincinnati Tea Party founder Mike Wilson against his Republican primary opponent in the race for the 28th Ohio House District seat. Wilson had filed a complaint with the commission contesting statements used in a telephone poll recently conducted by Tom Weidman’s campaign.
Amid the recent controversy about possibly adding more publicly subsidized housing for the poor in Green Township, local Republicans will hold a special forum tonight to discuss methods for blocking the expansion.
Voters First Ohio is not letting Republicans get away with any dishonesty on Issue 2. In a complaint filed to the Ohio Elections Commission yesterday, the pro-redistricting reform group claimed a recent mailer from Republicans contained three incorrect statements.
“In an effort to affect the outcome of the election and defeat State Issue 2, Republicans have knowingly, or with reckless disregard of the truth, made false statements in printed campaign material disseminated to registered voters,” the complaint said.
If approved by voters in November, Issue 2 will place the responsibility of redistricting in the hands of an independent citizens commission. Currently, politicians handle the process, which they use to redraw district boundaries in politically advantageous ways in a process known as “gerrymandering.” Ohio’s First Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn by the Republican-controlled process to include Warren County, which contains more rural voters that tend to vote Republican, and less of Cincinnati, which contains more urban voters that tend to vote Democrat.
The Voters First complaint outlines three allegedly false statements made by the Republican mailer. The first claim is “Some of the members will be chosen in secret.” As the complaint points out, this is false. The redistricting amendment on the November ballot will require nine of twelve members to be chosen in public, and then those nine members will pick the three final members. All of this has to be done in the public eye, according to the amendment: “All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public.”
The second disputed claim is that the amendment will provide a “blank check to spend our money” for the commission. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled against that claim on Sept. 12 when it ruled against Secretary of State Jon Husted’s proposed ballot language for Issue 2: “The actual text of the proposed amendment does not state that the redistricting amendment would have — as the ballot board’s language indicates — a blank check for all funds as determined by the commission.”
The mailer also claims that, in the redistricting amendment, “There’s no process for removing these bureaucrats, even if they commit a felony.” But the amendment says commissioners must be electors, and when an elector is convicted of a felony, that status is lost. The complaint says commissioners can also be removed “by a judge under a petition process that applies to public officials generally for exercising power not authorized by law, refusing or neglecting to perform a duty imposed by law, gross neglect of duty, gross immorality, drunkenness, misfeasance, nonfeasance, or malfeasance.”
The Ohio Elections Commission will take up the complaint Thursday morning. The full complaint can be read here.
Matthew Henderson, spokesperson for the Ohio Republican Party, called the complaint a "distraction”: “It’s a cheap shot. It’s up to the Ohio Elections Commission, and they’ll likely throw it out. It’s essentially a distraction from the real issues. The bottom line is that Issue 2 is going to create a panel of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats, and they’ll have influence over our elections.”
He added, “Ohio voters will be able to decide for themselves this fall whether they want to pay for these commissioners or not.”
When pressed about whether or not the Ohio Republican Party is sticking to the claims found in the mailer, he said that’s up to the Ohio Elections Commission to decide.
It is true the independent citizens commission created by Voters First is unelected, but that’s the entire point. The current problem with the system, as argued by Voters First, is elected officials are too vested in reelection to place the district boundary needs of the public above electoral needs. That’s why districts like Ohio’s First Congressional District are redrawn in a way that includes Cincinnati and Warren County — two regions that are vastly different.
While current Republicans oppose redistricting reform in Ohio, some Republicans of the past advocated for it. Ronald Reagan was one such advocate:
On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President Mitt Romney.
“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”
Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.
Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness.
A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.
Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make medical decisions.
He said the next president would also likely have the opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage.
"If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."
The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.
The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in that state.
In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.
“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls said.
One of Ohio's two U.S. senators says Democrats need to get better organized so they can counteract private conservative groups that secretly draft legislation for Republican lawmakers.
The Porkopolis column in this week's CityBeat features excerpts from an interview with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). As is often the case with print media, there was limited space available and segments of the wide-ranging interview with Brown weren't included in the column.
One of the unused segments included Brown's responses to questions about whether President Obama and Congressional Democrats are aggressive enough in pushing their agenda, and whether the Left needs a group to counteract organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Asked if Democrats at the federal level are too reactive and need to do better at framing and guiding debate on issues, Brown said his party could use some improvement in that regard. He cited the theories of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th Century essayist and abolitionist.
“I think the Democrats could do better at that, from the president on down,” Brown said. “It's always easier to say no. The one reason (Republicans) do well with message is, by definition almost, of conservative. Emerson talked about the innovators and the conservators. Progressives are the innovators and conservatives are the conservators. By definition, the conservators protect the status quo. Protecting the status quo means 'no,' 'repeal,' 'don't,' and 'not.' Those are simple concepts. Changing things is more complex.”
Also, Brown wishes the media would more clearly articulate what's happening in Washington. During the recent debate on raising the federal debt ceiling, for example, it was Obama and Democrats who were willing to compromise, a fact he believes didn't receive enough attention.
“When one party digs in and is extreme, both parties look bad,” he said. “When people say, 'they all look terrible in Washington,' a big reason for that is Republicans weren't willing to negotiate anything. They were willing to shut the government down if we didn't do things their way.
“We, in the end, want to be responsible,” Brown added. “A bunch of senators were in the White House months ago and Barack Obama said to us, 'I'm the adult and I have to be responsible. They know I'm not going to let the government default.' Well, as long as they know that, it changes things.”
Brown likes the suggestion of Democrats forming their own progressive version of ALEC — the private, corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state lawmakers, which is funded by the Koch brothers, the National Rifle Association and others.
“That might be a good idea,” he said. “The elections last year were all about job loss. Spending a little bit, but mostly about job loss. Then you look at the three most salient things this state legislature has done, which is roll back collective bargaining rights, voting rights and women's rights.
“Not only is that not solving the problems we really have, which is jobs, it's also injecting divisions into our country and our state that we don't need,” Brown added. “It's made people so angry and hurt so many people's feelings in a really significant way and for what? So they can accomplish a political agenda. That's what is really outrageous.”
An ardent opponent of going to war in Iraq, Brown believes some progressives' fear that Obama will extend the wars there and in Afghanistan beyond the timetables for troop withdrawals is unfounded.
“I'm confident they will be respected and I'm hoping Afghanistan's will be accelerated,” he said. “I think (Obama) will stand on what he said.”
The senator is more ambivalent about U.S. intervention in the uprising in Libya. “I wish the president had been a bit more forthcoming with Congress about our involvement, but people I respect have also said it would've been a real genocide there if the Europeans and we hadn't done something,” Brown said. “It's an awfully difficult call.”
Brown believes extremist actions by the GOP — like restricting collective bargaining rights at the state level, and trying to defund Planned Parenthood and limit access to abortion at the federal level — are out of touch with the mainstream, and will benefit Democrats in next year's elections.
“Voters absolutely see these guys overreaching,” Brown said. “The voters aren't wild about Barack Obama and the Democrats, but they like the Republicans even less.
“They've overreached on Medicare, it's going after Head Start and Planned Parenthood and all the kinds of things there is general consensus about in this country,” he added. “We have general consensus in this country on many things, except the Far Right, on items like the environment, on Medicare, on food safety, on voting rights. These guys have exploded that.”