This past week, the White House celebrated Black History Month with a star-studded concert, featuring some amazing civil rights-era singers, as well as some contemporary artists singing tunes from the past. The full show is now airing on PBS stations throughout the country. The series is called “In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music From the Civil Rights Movement.” Don’t have time to watch TV…here are some highlights from the show.
At the end of last week, I wrote about the Obama-Clinton face off in Selma, Alabama this weekend. In this morning’s Washington Post, Anne Kornblut and Peter Whoriskey go to great lengths to clarify a point that didn’t really need clarification at all.
“This is the site of my conception. I am the fruits of your labor,” Obama told an audience of civil rights movement veterans. “When people ask me if I’ve been to Selma before, I tell them I’m coming home.” An aide later said the senator did not mean to imply that his birth was a literal result of the Selma marches but rather of the movement overall.
You can watch clips and read the transcript of Obama and Clinton on their websites. Both candidates made great speeches. However, as expected, Sen. Clinton was kind of upstaged by the other Clinton…no, not Chelsea.
National Public Radio also does a great piece on the Selma events. Have a listen.
Proving once again that he cares about integrity and principles above political expediency, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) walked out of the Judiciary Committee meeting today that was considering an anti-marriage equality amendment to the US Consitution. Despite acknowledgement by committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter that he does not support the bill, derision by some conservatives, and an acknowledgement by most that the amendment has no chance of passing, Republicans are continuing to move forward with a bill based on hate to mollify their extreme right wing base.
Besides disagreeing with the subject of the amendment, Feingold’s protest was based on the movement of the hearing from the Senate Office Building to the President’s Room which “is not open to the public and does not even have enough chairs for every Senator on the committee to sit.”
“Today’s markup of the constitutional amendment concerning marriage, in a small room off the Senate floor with only a handful of people other than Senators and their staffs present, was an affront to the Constitution. I objected to its consideration in such an inappropriate setting and refused to help make a quorum. I am deeply disappointed that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee went forward with the markup over my objection. Unfortunately, the Majority Leader has set a politically motivated schedule for floor consideration of this measure that the Chairman felt compelled to follow, even though he says he opposes the amendment.
Constitutional amendments deserve the most careful and deliberate consideration of any matter that comes before the Senate. In addition to hearings and a subcommittee markup, such a measure should be considered by the Judiciary Committee in the light of day, open to the press and the public, with cameras present so that the whole country can see what is done. Open and deliberate debate on such an important matter cannot take place in a setting such as the one chosen by the Chairman of the Committee today.
The Constitution of the United States is an historic guarantee of individual freedom. It has served as a beacon of hope, an example to people around the world who yearn to be free and to live their lives without government interference in their most basic human decisions. I took an oath when I joined this body to support and defend the Constitution. I will continue to fight this mean-spirited, divisive, poorly drafted, and misguided amendment when it comes to the Senate floor.”
United States Senator Russ Feingold this week indicated that he not only opposes a constitutional amendment in Wisconsin to ban gay marriage and civil unions, but in fact, favors full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples.
Calling such a ban a “mean-spirited attempt to divide Wisconsin,” Feingold urged constituents at a Paddock Lake “listening session” not to support it.
He went on to argue not just for civil unions, but gay marriage.
“Gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry and have access to the same rights, privileges and benefits that straight couples currently enjoy.” Feingold went on to add, “[This] kind of discrimination … has no place in our laws, especially in a progressive state like Wisconsin. The time has come to end this discrimination and the politics of divisiveness that has become part of this issue.”
The Senator went on to argue that religious groups do not have to recognize any civil marriage.
The Bush administration said security clearances cannot be denied “solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.” But it removed language saying sexual orientation “may not be used as a basis for or a disqualifying factor in determining a person’s eligibility for a security clearance.”
While the White House tries to minimize the bigotry inherent in the rule changes by claiming it is merely a clarification of current rules, civil rights groups seem unanimous in their disapproval of the new guidlines. Said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, “It is not surprising to me that this administration is continuing to roll the clock back on the most basic of protections granted by the last administration.”
While the old rules did allow sexual activity to be considered when doing background checks for security clearances, the criteria were limited to activities that consisted of a criminal offense, suggested an emotional disorder, could subject someone to coercion or showed a lack of judgment. Now the rules are written in such a way that private and consensual activities could “mitigate security concerns.” No word yet on whether these rules apply to everyone.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The other brave Senators willing to buck popular opinion and Rovian fear mongering in favor of civil rights were Robert Byrd (D-WV), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Jim Jeffords (I-VT). Good for them.