TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt existing marriage laws and “impose significant public harm.”
Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in federal court in March. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.
Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who was named in the lawsuit along with fellow GOP Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, earlier this month filed a lengthy response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit for several reasons, saying a federal court shouldn’t rule on a state’s marriage laws.
Bondi’s office also argues that the state has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between a man and woman. Florida first banned same-sex marriages nearly two decades ago and voters reinforced that ban when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2008.
"Florida’s marriage laws, then, have a close, direct, and rational relationship to society’s legitimate interest in increasing the likelihood that children will be born to and raised by the mothers and fathers who produced them in stable and enduring family units," Bondi’s office said in court documents.
The state’s legal position also notes that there would be significant financial and logistical problems for the state’s pension and health insurance programs if same-sex marriages were recognized.
The lead attorney for the ACLU of Florida disagreed.
"Florida’s discriminatory laws cause serious harm to real families across the state," attorney Daniel Tilley said in a statement. "Despite the state’s assertion that the harms to same-sex married couples aren’t significant enough to warrant relief, the families living every day being treated like legal strangers by their home state know better."
Scott earlier this year said he supports Florida’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, but added that he “does not believe that anyone should be discriminated against for any reason.”
The lawsuit in Florida is part of a groundswell of challenges in the gay marriage debate.
Several federal judges have ruled in support of same-sex marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down part of the federal anti-gay marriage law.
h/t: Huffington Post
By Jenna Portnoy and Salvador Rizzo/The Star-Ledger TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie was primed for a year of retail politics as the new chairman of the Republican Governors Association, ready to show up at campaign events all over the country and meet…
KEY WEST — A federal judge in Orlando struck down a Florida law on Tuesday that required welfare recipients to undergo mandatory drug testing.
Judge Mary S. Scriven of United States District Court wrote in her decision that the state’s testing requirement was unconstitutional. “The court finds there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied,” she wrote. The ruling made permanent an earlier, temporary ban by the judge.
The decision stems from a 2011 suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Florida Justice Institute on behalf of a Central Florida resident, Luis W. Lebron, a Navy veteran who had filed for public assistance. Mr. Lebron, the single father of a 5-year-old who also provided care for his disabled mother, argued that it was unfair to require drug testing when no suspicion of drug abuse existed.
Judge Scriven agreed.
Howard Simon, executive director of the A.C.L.U. of Florida, said that “the courts are now signaling to politicians that they are not going to treat poor people as if they were exempt from constitutional rights.”
Yet another reason why drug testing welfare recipients is a not sound policy idea, and it’s an Unconstitutional and costly idea to boot. But that won’t stop many brainwashed right-wing zombies from promoting it as “good policy”.
h/t: The New York Times
Source: The New York Times
Fox News host flips over atheist holiday display: ‘Baby Jesus is behind the Festivus pole!’ | The Raw Story
Fox News host Gretchen Carlson on Tuesday lashed out at atheists in Florida for putting up a Festivus display next to a Christian display at the state Capitol building. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) office approved a request to install a Festivus…
Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is running for the post again in 2014 — this time as a Democrat.
Crist, who served as Republican governor for the Sunshine State from 2007-2011, hinted last week that he would be making a run. In a web video entitled "Tell Me How I Can Help," he referred to himself as “the people’s governor,” saying that only voters can “end this nonsense and get us back to common sense.”
h/t: Huffington Post
While the budget showdown is getting the lion’s share of the attention, another conservative strategy to derail Obamacare is quietly forming on the right. The idea is to keep people from actually going to their computers and signing up for health insurance through the health care exchanges that open on Oct. 1. To do this, conservatives are borrowing a strategy from a much older and more established movement, the anti-abortion movement. Because if you want to reduce people’s access to health care, then of course the people you want to imitate are anti-choicers, who are the world experts on trying to throw up obstacle between patients and doctors.
As documented by Jill Filipovic at Salon, the anti-abortion movement has long used a two-pronged strategy to keep women from getting to abortion providers when they need them: 1) Use your activist wing to make the actual process of going to the doctor seem fraught with peril and 2) back this up by having the government throw as many obstacles as they can legally get away with between you and your doctor. This strategy, while not doing much to reduce the actual abortion rate, has successfully reduced the number of providers in the country and created a burgeoning black market for abortion drugs.
Now the same tactics are being used by the anti-Obamacare movement. Since there’s no physical location to sign up for Obamacare for protesters to target, conservatives have had to get creative in trying portray the experience of signing up for health insurance as dangerous. Generation Opportunity, Koch brothers-funded group, is running ads that dishonestly suggest that people who sign up for Obamacare will be subject to unnecessarily invasive and torturous medical testing. One ad specifically insinuates that the gynecological tests women will be able to afford if they get insured are close to sexual assault, an idea that is directly borrowed from anti-choice rhetoric that equates getting an abortion with assault. (Unsurprisingly, Generation Opportunity employs at least one prominent anti-abortion activist.)
The idea that getting health insurance through the exchanges is tantamount to experiencing sexual mortification is evident also in the claims that are cropping up on the right that signing up will mean that your sexual history is put in some kind of database to be used for nefarious purposes. It’s absolutely untrue, of course, but the threat that merely signing up for insurance will result in you being “outed” as a sexually active person is highly reminiscent of the way that anti-choice protesters try to induce sexual shame in abortion patients by showing up at clinics, taking pictures, and writing down license plate numbers. The message is consistent: You can’t get an abortion — and now, sign up for Obamacare — without having your privacy violated.
On the government level, a common anti-abortion tactic is to claim that abortion is somehow unsafe and therefore the government needs to pass a bunch of regulations that, in actuality, are just about making abortion hard to get. This strategy is being borrowed wholesale by Republican leaders looking for a way to put obstacles in between people and the health care exchanges. Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) of Florida have been running around making hysterical, unfounded claims that the navigator program — which is just a federal program that hires people to help the uninsured navigate the new health care exchanges—-is somehow some grave threat to people’s privacy. Bondi has gone as far as to suggest that using a navigator to sign up for insurance will be at risk of identity theft. As anti-choicers use trumped-up concerns about abortion’s safety as cover to pass regulations making it harder to get, Scott is using these trumped-up concerns about the navigator program’s safety to bar the navigators from using state offices.
Late last week more than a dozen Republican governors declared that they will not build the insurance market exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act, including prominent names like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Perry of Texas.
On Monday, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma joined them, declaring in a statementthat it “does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government.”
The original deadline for states to notify the Department of Health and Human Services on whether they intend to build their own exchange was last Friday, but the administration extended it to Dec. 14. About a dozen Republican governors are weighing their options, including Chris Christie of New Jersey, Rick Scott of Florida and Terry Branstad of Iowa.
The decisions carry important implications for the long-term arc of Obamacare, which supporters and opponents alike agree is here to stay now that President Obama has been re-elected. The Obama administration wants states to build the exchanges so they have an incentive to make the law work. If the federal government takes over, state-level Republicans have a scapegoat in case things go wrong.
The more states stonewall the exchanges, the more it complicates the task of the federal government. One challenge is that the law lacks an automatic funding mechanism for HHS to set up state exchanges. Enrollment is slated to begin next October, and the exchanges are scheduled to start functioning by January 2014.
Twenty-three states, mostly Democratic, and Washington, D.C. have said they’ll move forwardwith the exchanges, either on their own or in partnership with the feds.
Propelling the GOP governors’ stance is a desire to protect themselves politically from accusations of abetting a law that conservatives fervently oppose. Some governors argue that the regulations are too stifling and provide little flexibility for them to construct the marketplaces in accordance with their states’ needs.
h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM
One of the more stunning developments following President Obama’s re-election has been the number of ardent Republicans who have confessed that they believed the anti-Democratic propaganda from Fox News—and got so much wrong as a result.
The voting rights part of this fact-averse bubble had many dimensions: from who is and isn’t registered to vote, to when and where people wanted to vote, to what a voter must do at the polls to get a ballot, to how voter lists are updated—and who can be trusted to oversee the process.
What follows are 10 lies the Right pedaled during the 2012 campaign. Some GOP partisans, like this Nevada group, are already trying to resurrect some of these fake issues. You can be sure you’ll see more as states and Congress look at 2012’s biggest problems, such as people having to wait hours and hours to vote.
1. Non-Citizen Multitudes On Voter Rolls
Florida’s Tea Party Gov. Rick Scott was the worst offender, falsely claiming that there were 180,000 or more non-citizens listed on Florida’s voter rolls. It turned out that Scott and his hand-picked state election chief found 198 non-citizens among Florida’s 11 million voters before backpedaling from the claim. But other Republican top state election officials, in Colorado, Michigan and New Mexico, made the same claim in 2012 in an attempt to scare off legal non-white voters. This line was picked up by other GOP partisans who bought dozens of billboardsin communities of color in several swing states listing the penalty for illegal voting. The billboards came down after strong protests from civil rights groups.
2. Partisan Election Officials Are Trustworthy
Florida’s Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Ohio Secretary of State John Husted, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and a handful of other Republicans overseeing their state’s elections are only the latest partisans who have abused their constitutional office by tilting voting rules to give an advantage to their party. We saw the same thing in Ohio in 2004, when Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell followed Florida’s Katherine Harris from 2000. Both Republicans made many decisions that hurt Democrats and elected—and then re-elected—George W. Bush.
This conflict of interest is one of the biggest problems with American elections. But there are more fair-minded ways to oversee voting, such as in Wisconsin where an independent board of retired judges runs and referees that state’s elections. And it should be noted that in Florida this year, many county-level election supervisors (who are elected) pushed back on Gov. Scott’s edicts. That’s because they see their job as serving the public rather than being partisan activists.
3. Dead People Are Voting (For Democrats)
This propaganda line came after the Pew Center on the States issued a reportshowing that 1.8 million dead people were on state voter roles. Some in GOP circles went nuts, saying dead people would be voting for Democrats. Some newspapers also ran with the “dead voters” angle, revealing that they have little knowledge of the fact that voter rolls are maintained in an ongoing manner and how local officials take many steps to update their rolls (as people register, move and die).
4. Tougher Voter ID Laws Are Needed
Voter ID laws have been on the books for years. You need to show ID to register to vote. New voters must show an ID to get a ballot. And established voters sign in at the polls (or sign their names on mail-in ballots) under penalty of perjury. But those precedents have not stopped GOP-controlled legislatures from enactingnew laws requiring voters to show a specific form of state photo ID to get a ballot. The GOP’s big rationale is that they’re fighting voter impersonation fraud—the claim someone else is voting under another’s name. Of course, their real agenda is preventing likely Democrats in key cohorts—young people, urban residents without driver’s licenses, poor people, etc—from voting.
What the 2012 election showed was that the biggest perpetuators of fraudulent voter registration schemes were Republicans, notably Nathan Sproul, a political consultant who was hired by several state Republican Parties to register voters. Sproul’s workers had a bad habit of throwing out forms from Democrats. State parties were forced to fire him after police opened investigations. This isn’t to say that there were no cases of Democrats tinkering with registrations. But almost all of the cases reported in 2012 involved the GOP’s consultants or lone actors. No one found registration fraud on a scale affecting thousands of votes, let alone hundreds.
5. Tougher Voter ID Laws Protect Minorities
This absurd line was pedaled by two of the Right’s biggest voting propagandists, former Bush Administration Department of Justice attorney Hans von Spakovsky (now with the Heritage Foundation) and National Review columnist John Fund. They made this claim in their new book, Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk, in media commentaries, and at recruiting sessions for right-wing voter vigilante groups that obsess over the specter of illegal voters.
Von Spakovsky said that minority turnout in Georgia went up after it adopted a tougher voter ID law—a claim that handily overlooks how its Latino population has surged in recent years. But more to the point, tougher voter ID laws have given GOP groups a pathway to racially profile voters.
6. Federal Voting Rights Act Is Obsolete
This claim is really outrageous against the backdrop of all the race-based tactics the GOP used to try to defeat President Obama. In lawsuits still unfolding in federal court—and at the U.S. Supreme Court—Republican lawyers are arguing that the U.S. is now a post-racial society, which means that Civil Rights Era laws such as the federal Voting Rights Act are no longer needed.
This year, the two authorities under the Voting Rights Act—Justice Department and a federal appeals court in Washington—found that the new voter ID laws in Texas and South Carolina were racially discriminatory, preventing them from taking effect. The Washington court found that Texas’ congressional and state redistricting plan also was discriminatory—and rejected it. And the Justice Department was part of litigation in Florida over that state’s efforts to curb registration drives and limit early voting, all because the GOP-led measures disproportionately would impact those state’s minority voters.
Moreover, while some Republicans in the 16 states that are all or partly regulated by the Voting Rights Act—such as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott—have led the attack on the Voting Rights Act and accused the Obama Justice Department of rampant partisan manipulation of the law, other Republicans in those same states have proposed changes in election law and procedures that have been approved by the Justice Department. So the GOP dislikes the law when it blocks their agenda but likes it when it doesn’t.
7. Early Voting Is Not Wanted or Needed
This was another absurd claim that was made by top Republican election officials in Florida and Ohio—and was the subject of litigation that, at least in Ohio’scase, lasted until just days before the presidential election. Both Florida and Ohio saw efforts by Republicans, in their legislatures and by their secretaries of state, to limit weekend voting options in the final weeks of the 2012 election. In Ohio, a federal judge was so incensed by Secretary of State John Husted’s intransigence that at one point he ordered Husted to appear in his courtroom to personally explain why he ignored court orders.
In Florida, the GOP-controlled legislature has purposely limited the number of early voting locations—which was also a problem in 2008—and then tried to cut back on the total number of hours of weekend voting in 2012. After litigation led by voting rights groups, the state slightly adjusted the early voting schedule. However, these political decisions were directly responsible for the hours-long lines in both swing states this year.
8. Obama Disenfranschised Overseas Military Voters
Another aspect of the Ohio litigation over early voting was the claim by Republicans and Fox News that the Obama campaign’s lawsuit to preserve early voting on the final weekend before Election Day disenfranschised overseas military voters. This lie was based on very twisted logic—if you could even call it that. Until 2011, all Ohioans could vote on the weekend before Election Day. But Ohio’s GOP-controlled Legislature passed a law that only allowed for overseas military members and their families to vote on that final weekend in November 2012. The Obama campaign sued, saying that did not treat all Ohio voters equally under the law.
Various Fox News on-air hosts said that Obama was seeking to prevent members of the military and their families from voting in the presidential election, a multi-dimensional untruth and smear. If anything, the Obama campaign lawsuit—which was victorious—would allow all Ohioans, at home and overseas, to have more voting options. (Ohio, like all states, gives troops overseas more time to return their ballots because of mail and delivery delays).
9. One Million GOP Poll Watchers Are Coming
The GOP’s voter vigilante squad, led by the new group, True the Vote, claimed that it would train and send 1 million polling place observers to swing states to be on the lookout for anything resembling (to them) voter fraud and to stop illegal voting. That didn’t happen. There was no invasion of Republican voting posses descending on thousands of local precincts in swing states.
True the Vote is not going away, but it needs to be seen for what it is—the front guard of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. Indeed, just as many Tea Partiers elected to the House in 2010 were unseated in 2012, this Republican cadre’s outsized claims should not be taken seriously.
10. Obama Will Steal The Election Electronically
The Republican National Committee made this claim in letters to a half-dozen top state election officials in swing states one week before Election Day. A top RNC lawyer cited isolated problems with paperless voting machines as a sign that Democrats were poised to electronically flip votes from Romney to Obama to steal the election. State election directors in Nevada and North Carolina responded with forceful letters, saying the RNC’s concerns and theory was unsupported by facts and vote-counting procedures.
Of course, what the RNC was doing was seeking to undermine the public’s confidence in a process that was headed toward re-electing Obama.
Florida GOP Launches Revenge Campaign Against Justices Who Ruled Against Gov. Rick Scott | ThinkProgress
On Friday, ThinkProgress reported that a Pennsylvania Tea Party group vowed revenge against two state supreme court justices who joined a recent decision that unanimously rejected a lower court order upholding a voter suppression law. Now, the Florida GOP wants to play this game as well:
The party announced late Friday that its board voted unanimously this week to oppose the retention of Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince, who were all appointed by Democratic former Gov. Lawton Chiles and who have ruled against several major priorities of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.
If the justices are not retained, Scott would appoint replacements.
“While the collective evidence of judicial activism amassed by these three individuals is extensive, there is one egregious example that all Florida voters should bear in mind when they go to the polls on election day,” said spokeswoman Kristen McDonald in a statement. “These three justices voted to set aside the death penalty for a man convicted of tying a woman to a tree with jumper cables and setting her on fire.”
The Florida GOP’s decision to base its PR campaign against these justices around a death penalty decision is rather ghoulish, but it is both familiar and unsurprising. Twenty-six years ago, California Republicans led a $5.6 million campaign to oust California Chief Justice Rose Birdand two of her colleagues. Although the campaign outwardly focused on the death penalty, its top supporters included the Independent Oil Producers Agency, the Western Growers Association, the late anti-tax activst Howard Jarvis and the Free Market Political Action Committee. Bird’s opponents knew they couldn’t run an effective campaign by attacking her for being insufficiently friendly to wealthy corporations and other interest groups, so they chose instead to hide their true motives by focusing on the death penalty.
In 1996, Tennessee conservatives ran a similar playbook, ousting Justice Penny White because she voted to overturn a single death sentence. Significantly, only 19 percent of the state’s voters participated in the retention election, demonstrating the ability of a well-funded campaign to shape the outcome of a judicial race, since the campaign only needs to rally a small group of voters in these very low profile elections.
The initial purge effort, conducted in May, informed hundreds of fully eligible U.S. citizens that Florida believed they were ineligible to vote. Among those targeted was a 91-year-old World War II veteran.
Election officials were told to expect a revised lists of voters for possible removal in two to three weeks but “not later than October 15, 2012.”
The presentation outlines a proceedure to “update” their flawed purge list by cross-checking it against a federal Department of Homeland Security database (SAVE). This task is apparently being done by hand and has not been completed since there is “no established automated process yet.”
The Florida Department of State acknolwedges that, in many cases, the federal SAVE database will not establish definitively whether or not someone is a U.S. citizen. In that case, they are directing election officials to mail them letters to “re-affirm registration status” and “remind them of eligibility requirements and that it is illegal to be registered and vote when someone is not a U.S. citizen.”
Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Anne McFall, a Republican who was recently informed of new purge, told ThinkProgress:
We’re 55 days in front of a huge election. It just doesn’t help us whatsoever. I went through the SAVE training today—it’s the most convoluted thing you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s awful.
Even if they got the list of names to us tomorrow, there wouldn’t be time. That person has due process. Anyone has due process in the state and country.
Florida claims that the purge proceedures they outline “is not subject to the 90-day moratorium preceding a federal election.” The Department of Justice disputes that interpretation and has sued Florida to stop the purge.
h/t: Think Progress
WASHINGTON — In a victory for Republicans, the federal government has agreed to let Florida use a law enforcement database to challenge people’s right to vote if they are suspected of not being U.S. citizens.
The agreement, made in a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s administration that was obtained by The Associated Press, grants the state access to a list of resident noncitizens maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. The Obama administration had denied Florida’s request for months, but relented after a judge ruled in the state’s favor in a related voter-purge matter.
Voting rights groups, while acknowledging that noncitizens have no right to vote, have expressed alarm about using such data for a purpose not originally intended: purging voter lists of ineligible people. They say voter purges less than four months before a presidential election might leave insufficient time to correct mistakes stemming from faulty data or other problems.
Democrats say that the government’s concession is less troubling than some GOP-controlled states’ push to require voters to show photo identification.
But Republicans count it as a victory nonetheless in their broad-based fight over voter eligibility, an issue that could play a big role in the White House race. That’s especially true in pivotal states such as Florida, Colorado, Nevada and North Carolina.
Republican officials in several states say they are trying to combat voter fraud. Democrats, however, note that proven cases of voter fraud are rare. They accuse Republicans of cynical efforts to suppress voting by people in lower socio-economic groups who tend to vote Democratic.
Colorado has sought the federal data for a year. Colorado, which has a Democratic governor but a Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, has identified about 5,000 registered voters that it wants to check against the federal information.
Officials in the politically competitive states of Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico and Iowa - all led by GOP governors - are backing his efforts.
h/t: Huffington Post
As the National Governors Association conference kicks off Friday, the nation’s Democratic governors are attacking what they say are lies being told by three current Republican governors — and Sarah Palin — regarding the Affordable Care Act.
The Democratic Governors Association released a web video Friday morning featuring the four GOP leaders discussing health care with DGA captions from political fact checking organizations. The NGA is expected to take up health care reform at the state level during a committee meeting Saturday morning in Williamsburg, Va.
The video includes a recent appearance by Palin on Fox News discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling , with the former Alaska governor elaborating on what she believes are “death panels” empowered by the law. The DGA includes a caption from PolitiFact calling “death panels” the “Lie of the Year” in 2009 and notes that Palin’s clip was recent.
The AFSCME, a union representing 1.6 million public service workers, on Tuesday uploaded a video to YouTube that humorously criticizes Republicans for their opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
The video, based on the intro to the 1970′s sitcom The Brady Bunch, claims that “working people don’t matter” to prominent Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (OH), Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
All the Republicans in the video have vowed to do whatever they can to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced support for his state’s controversial voter purge effort on Wednesday, saying it was hard to disagree with the push to clear supposed non-citizens from the electoral rolls.
"How can you argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls?" he said at a Bloomberg event, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Rubio’s comments put him in line with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) who on Tuesday declared the debate on the merits of the purge “over,” because the probe had supposedly turned up more than 50 non-citizen voters who had cast ballots.
The Department of Justice didn’t agree. Later Tuesday, it announced it was launching a federal lawsuit against Florida over complaints that the purge was taking place within 90 days of its August 14 primary election, as well as over its alleged violation of a voting rights law meant to prevent states from suppressing voters.
Concerns over the purge have largely been spurred by reports showing that the effort disproportionately targets minority and Democratic-leaning voters. According to aMiami Herald study, Hispanic voters accounted for nearly 60 percent of the names on the list, while they make up only 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.
While the controversy rages, Scott continues to maintain that the move is a “no-brainer,” necessary to maintain fair elections in the state.
h/t: Huffington Post
During an appearance on Fox News Monday afternoon, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced that the state will sue the Department of Homeland Security to obtain access to a database that it believes will provide more accurate information on the citizenship status of Florida voters.
“The Florida’s Secretary of State office wil be filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database,” Scott said. “We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and so we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.” The move comes after Scott disregarded a request from the Department of Justice on Wednesday to abandon efforts to purge eligible voters.