Republicans

Some Republicans Come Out in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

More than 100 prominent Republicans signed an amicus brief last week, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage. Almost 300 businesses signed a similar brief asking the court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of one man and one woman.

The national GOP platform, adopted in August at the Republican National Convention, called for a constitutional amendment echoing the one man, one woman standard. When President Barack Obama instructed his Justice Department not to defend DOMA in court, House Republican leaders authorized spending taxpayer money to do so.

But as the high court prepares to hear arguments in back-to-back cases challenging DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, some big Republican names are asking the court to recognize that gay couples have a constitutional right to wed.

I suspect this just indicates that a few of the more foresighted members of the GOP have realized they need to get ahead of the game or face inevitable defeat, but I’ll take equality however I can get it.

The 300 businesses, on the other hand, may just be seeking good buzz, but I’m inclined to be optimistic and think that they really do want marriage equality. Let’s hope it becomes a trend.

Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act

Senators took up a few amendments to the bill. They voted 93 to 5 to include a provision targeting human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance. They rejected amendments by Coburn to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators.

Overall, I think it’s good that the bill is now headed to the House. But for the sake of balance, I also think it’s worth considering some reasons Senators may have opposed the bill. A few of them are stupid, like not wanting to extend protection to LGBT people or worrying about fringe cases like a non-citizen falsely accusing his spouse of abuse to gain residency upon their divorce. But some concerns are legitimate, even though I don’t think they’re dealbreakers. For example:

The act’s grants have encouraged states to implement “mandatory-arrest” policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation, or officers defer to the “man of the house” and fail to take an abuse claim seriously. But… critics say mandatory-arrest laws can backfire. A 2007 study found that states with such laws saw increases in intimate-partner homicides—perhaps because they made victims, who may have wanted the police to intervene without making an arrest, less likely to report abuse before it could escalate out of control.

Birth Control: The Movie

Billing itself as “the definitive film on the subject of birth control and it’s [sic] impact on the Church, marriage, and family”, I strongly suspect this film will be definitive of nothing except the conservative evangelical mania for aping the dogma of the Republican Party instead of actually reading the Bible. This is from the film website:

We live in a culture where there is no fundamental difference on the issue of child prevention between the church of Jesus Christ and unbelievers. The fruit of our contraceptive culture is rancid and many voices are calling for a restoration of the church. In order to effectively communicate the truth about birth control and it’s [sic] impact on the church, marriage, and family, we have to ask two questions: How Did We Get Here, and Is It Up to Us?

My Further Questions:

  1. Why does there need to be a difference between the Church and the rest of the culture on the issue of preventing pregnancy?
  2. Did you think we wouldn’t spot your attempt to conflate contraception and hating children (“child prevention”)?
  3. What does it mean to have a “contraceptive culture”?
  4. How does restoration of the Church have anything to do with contraception?
  5. Is it possible that you’re just throwing around buzzwords and scare terms to trick us into believing contraception is a threat to our beliefs?
  6. Should people who aren’t even capable of distinguishing between possessives and contractions really be allowed to make movies?

All right, I got a little cheap, but so did they.

Via Libby Anne.

Most People Oppose Overturning Roe v. Wade

Results from The Pew Forum’s most recent survey, published on Wednesday:

As the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision approaches, the public remains opposed to completely overturning the historic ruling on abortion. More than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the court completely overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.

How does that jibe with the increasing prevalance of anti-abortion legislation being enacted? I think this at least partly explains it:

White evangelical Protestants are the only major religious group in which a majority (54%) favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision.

You can see from the link above that nearly half of the anti-abortion provisions passed in 2012 came from the same six states, five of which are red states. While Republicans are almost evenly split on overturning Roe v. Wade, white evangelicals—the GOP’s go-to group—support it. The survey results indicate that this group is also more likely than any other to think that abortion is a “critical issue”.

I often wonder what would happen if the Republican party leadership started legislating based on what all of their constituents want instead of relying on a few hot-button issues they know will win the support of conservative Christians.

Anyway, the survey doesn’t take a terribly long time to read, so check it out if you’re at all interested in the topic of abortion legislation.

Via the Feminist Majority Foundation Blog.

Susan B. Anthony List to Provide GOP "Sensitivity Training"

Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said the lawmakers are falling for a trap set by proponents of abortion rights who want to focus the debate on extremes such as rape instead of other abortions.

“It’s a tactic to [force pro-life lawmakers to] talk about this rather than the 98 percent of abortions because they know that they lose it,” Dannenfelser said.

She said that SBA List is working on a new training program for candidates and lawmakers to “make sure that in future elections, a candidate can never with a straight face say, ‘I never thought about that or I got caught flat-footed.’”

Marina Ein, whose public relations firm does crisis communications, said the party needs some kind of “sensitivity training” for its candidates if it wants to do better in the next elections.

“It all boils down to whether or not the Republican Party thinks this is a problem,” she said. “If they want to make inroads with women, then they need to subject every one of their candidates to sensitivity training—not to mention reality training."

The training would have to “educate politicians on subjects that are absolutely taboo, except to say, ‘I sympathize with the pain of anyone who goes through fill-in-the-blank,’” she said.

While learning to shut up about sensitive subjects would be a huge step forward for many GOP politicians, I think this is a band-aid. Providing sensitivity training to clueless power groups is like teaching someone to be a high-functioning sociopath instead of the kind who turns into a serial killer.

Gingrey's Bad Science and Bad Logic

When I responded to Rep. Phil Gingrey’s “legitimate rape” remarks on Saturday, I focused on the subtle misogyny underlying the statement. William Saletan at Slate wants to make sure we don’t miss the bad science behind Gingrey’s claims that stress can cause infertility and that doctors frequently tell women to “Just relax. Drink a glass of wine.”

If Gingrey is telling this to his patients—and prescribing alcohol for it—he’s a quack. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “While chronic stress, for example from extreme exposure to famine or war, may decrease a woman’s ability to conceive, there is no scientific evidence that adrenaline, experienced in an acute stress situation, has an impact on ovulation.” The American Society for Reproductive Medicine agrees: “There isn’t any proof that stress causes infertility.” Another infertility organization, Resolve, says “stress does not cause infertility.” Dr. Gingrey might also benefit from reading this 2010 paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: “Acute stress may induce ovulation in women.”

Saletan also isn’t letting Gingrey slide on his reinterpretation of Akin’s original statement as a warning against false rape accusations by teenage girls afraid to admit they had consensual sex:

Really? That isn’t how Akin explained his remark. On Aug. 20, a day after the gaffe, Akin went on Mike Huckabee’s radio show. Huckabee asked Akin: “What did you mean by ‘legitimate rape’? Were you attempting to say forcible rape?” Akin replied: “Yeah, I was talking about forcible rape.” If that’s truly what Akin meant, then he was using the term legitimate to suggest that any woman impregnated by rape must have suffered statutory rape, not forcible rape.

As I’ve mentioned frequently, I grew up Republican and retain strong nostalgia and sympathy for the party. So I believe I’m decently-positioned to be fair in thinking this incident illustrates that many of the GOP establishment have gotten lost in uncritical rhetoric and thereby become incapable of not sounding like racist, misogynist, homophobic fear-mongers scrabbling to retain their dwindling vestiges of power.

Because of my also—by this time—well-known belief that most people are pretty decent and have good intentions, I think the Republican party needs to take a good hard look at itself and get educated about the true needs and perspectives of women, gays, and minorities, very quickly.

"I Don’t Find Anything So Horrible About That."

I assume it’s now some sort of GOP hazing ritual to have to make an ill-advised remark about “legitimate rape” in an interview, so it doesn’t really surprise me much that Rep. Phil Gingrey, chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said this on Thursday:

“I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true,” Gingrey said, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. “We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he?”

I pretty much expect that of Republican legislators now. Call me cynical. But the [more?] outrageous part of Gingrey’s remarks comes when he tries to interpret what he thinks Todd Akin actually intended to say:

What he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’

Here are two reasons this is still offensive: 1) It reinforces the patriarchal culture that tells women they need to be ashamed to admit they’ve been sexually active, and 2) perpetuating the trope of the woman who lies to cover up her sexual indiscretions betrays an underlying mistrust of women and assumption that they lack integrity.

This is what the Republican party seems not to get about the entire conversation. They keep focusing on whether Akin’s remarks about women’s bodies and rape were medically accurate when it almost doesn’t matter, because the misogyny at the root of this thinking is what’s actually costing them the female vote.

House GOP Lets Violence Against Women Act Die Without A Vote

So when I said this:

But The Violence Against Women Act of 2012 passed the House earlier this year, and while partisanship and social conservatism have held up reconciliation of the House and Senate versions of the bill, it is still expected to eventually pass and be signed into law.

That was obviously far from true. Hollow victory for anyone wishing to score claim chowder points against me, though.

The GOP’s reason for letting the bill die:

In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven.

What three groups were those, you ask? LGBT, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. I don’t even understand the inclusion of Native Americans, and although I know why Republicans voted against additional protection for undocumented immigrants and LGBT women, I can’t at all sympathize. Even believing that someone is destroying our economy or committing an abomination against The Lord doesn’t justify tolerating violence against them.

Republican Governor Comes Out in Favor of OTC Birth Control

On Thursday Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana, published an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal (behind a pay wall, so you might have to Google it), arguing in favor of over-the-counter contraception. While full of pretty typical anti-Obama rhetoric, Jindal goes further than many in the GOP seem willing to go:

Why do women have to go see a doctor before they buy birth control? There are two answers. First, because big government says they should, even though requiring a doctor visit to get a drug that research shows is safe helps drive up health-care costs. Second, because big pharmaceutical companies benefit from it. They know that prices would be driven down if the companies had to compete in the marketplace once their contraceptives were sold over the counter.

I don’t agree with Jindal’s assessment that making contraceptives available OTC would “take contraception out of the political arena”, but it would certainly help. More importantly, it would—duh—make contraception more readily available, and any pro-life person should be in favor of that.

Via the Feminist Majority Foundation Blog.

Michigan Lawmakers Propose Tax Credit for Theoretical Children, Eliminate Tax Relief For Actual Children

No exaggeration:

Pro-choicers have been accusing conservatives for decades of valuing fetuses more than actual born children (and exponentially more than post-pubescent women), and now state legislators in Michigan are considering proving them right. The legislature held a hearing on Tuesday for House Bill 5684 and 5685, which would “allow taxpayers to claim a dependency exemption for a fetus that has completed at least 12 weeks of gestation as of the last day of the tax year and that has been under the care and observation of a physician since at least 12 weeks of gestation.”

Just last year, on the other hand, the legislature eliminated a tax credit for parents.

What could possibly motivate this other than wanting to make a philosophical statement? And as Sam Goldwyn said, “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.”

By the way, the House Fiscal Agency (which is nonpartisan) estimates that this new tax credit could cost the state $5–10 million, so fiscal soundness clearly played no part in the decision.