Compiled by Dawn Wolfe
Specter under fire by conservative groups
WASHINGTON – Sen. Arlen Specter’s move up to chairman of the committee that handles White House judicial nominees is on the line this week when lawmakers return to the Capitol to clean up the unfinished work of this Congress and prepare for the next one. Opposition has arisen to the moderate Republican, who supports abortion rights and also has a positive voting record on LGBT issues, as a result of his post-election statements that nominees with anti-abortion views would have a tough time winning Senate confirmation.
He has since stressed that he would be a team player if he succeeds the current chairman, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who must step down because of GOP-imposed term limits.
Analysis finds moral values answer depended on question
WASHINGTON – This presidential election has been described by many as one in which morality mattered most to voters. But that perception may be driven at least partially by how pollsters asked voters about their priority issues.
Whether voters named “moral values” as their key issue partly depended on whether that subject was included in a list of choices provided by pollsters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.
When “moral values” was included in poll questions, it was named more often than any other issue. But when voters were just asked to name the issue most important in their vote for president – without being given a list of answers – moral values trailed the war in Iraq and the economy, according to the Pew survey.
“The advantage of the open-ended question is it tells you what’s at the top of mind for voters – what they’re thinking,” said Cliff Zukin, a veteran pollster and professor of public policy at Rutgers University. “Much too much has been made of the moral values answer.”
Falwell announces new coalition to build on evangelical momentum
The Rev. Jerry Falwell announced Nov. 9 that he has formed The Faith and Values Coalition to guide an “evangelical revolution.”
Falwell, a religious broadcaster based in Lynchburg, Va., said the new coalition will be a “21st Century resurrection of the Moral Majority,” the organization credited with creating the “religious right” in the nation after Falwell founded it in 1979.
The Faith and Values Coalition’s mission will include ensuring that pro-life conservatives are chosen and confirmed to fill any vacancies that emerge on the U.S. Supreme Court and lower courts, a Constitutional amendment banning equal marriage rights and the election of another “George Bush-type” conservative in 2008, Falwell said.
HRC comments on Gonzales nomination
WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign reacted Nov. 10 to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales to U.S. Attorney General, replacing Attorney General John Ashcroft.
“We are hopeful that Alberto Gonzales will take a moderate approach and reject discrimination,” said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. “We look forward to confirmation hearings where we can further explore his position on issues of privacy, civil liberties and civil rights. At this time, the Human Rights Campaign takes no formal position on this nomination.”
Gay activists meet after state bans pass
ST. LOUIS – Organizers of the Creating Change conference said soul-searching was in order after the resounding voter passage of bans against equal marriage rights in 11 states last week.
Matt Foreman, executive director of the sponsoring National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the election results left members troubled and fearful.
It’s tough when “the vast majority of citizens in your state not only do not understand you but take hostile steps to change the constitution to take away rights we never even had,” Foreman said. “There’s no way you can put lipstick on that pig.”
About 2,000 people are were expected to attend the conference, which ran from Nov. 11-14.
Sue Hyde, director of the Creating Change conference, said organizers believe states will interpret the new marriage measures broadly, to prohibit recognition of homosexual relationships and families, and that the Bush administration will push for a U.S. Constitutional ban on equal marriage rights.
Hyde said members of the gay-rights movement must “regroup and buckle down,” accepting that they may not be able to win over political leaders.
Instead, she said, “We have to engage our neighbors and co-workers in a deep conversation about our humanity, and the need to be able to take care of our families.”
Contrite NJ governor highlights his accomplishments in farewell speech
TRENTON, N.J. – Gov. James E. McGreevey used his farewell address to tout the accomplishments of an administration cut short by scandal, apologizing for “mistakes in my judgment” but not for coming out as a “gay American.”
“I am sorry that I have disappointed the citizens of the state of New Jersey who gave me this enormous trust,” McGreevey said Nov. 15 during the 15-minute address to staff and supporters. “I am not apologizing for being a gay American but rather for having let personal feelings impact my decision-making.”
McGreevey received a standing ovation after he slipped on stage through a curtain to begin his speech, and he got more cheers as he left while hugging staff and cabinet members. His family did not attend.
The bulk of the speech focused on McGreevey’s thoughts about what he called the nation’s divisive political climate and his feelings about being “an American who just happens to be gay and proud.”
Naval Academy grads will try to set up gay chapter
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – After a year of preparation, a group of former Naval Academy midshipmen announced on Veterans Day they will try again to establish the first official gay and lesbian alumni chapter of any U.S. service academy.
Leaders of the would-be chapter say they’ve resolved objections raised by the Naval Academy Alumni Association last December, when the panel rejected the chapter’s application to be officially recognized. The group, now with 66 members, tweaked its bylaws to clarify they don’t exclude straight graduates.
“Now that we’ve transformed ourselves into a chapter that meets the criteria, we get to put to the test the statement they made last year when they said our sexuality was never taken into consideration,” said Jeff Petrie, a 1989 Naval Academy graduate who organized the chapter. He lives in Castro and is president of the group, which has continued to function as an unofficial chapter over the past year.
Besides geography, the alumni association said last year it rejected USNA Out’s application because it focused on serving a discrete group of graduates, unlike other chapters, and that it served a special interest.
No U.S. service academy’s alumni associations have officially recognized a gay chapter. The Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association has 150 members but isn’t officially sanctioned by any of the military academies, and many of its members are anonymous.
Gay Christian group holds vigils outside offices of bishops
ATLANTA – Small groups of gay Christians held vigils Nov. 9 outside the offices of Catholic bishops they say have ignored pleas to talk about the church’s anti-gay stance.
Holding posters with Bible verses calling for tolerance, the protesters went to diocese offices in 11 cities where bishops or archbishops refused to meet with members of Soulforce, a Christian group that advocates for recognition of gay rights.
Soulforce estimated more than 100 people participated nationwide. Soulforce has also protested other denominations that oppose gay rights, including the Southern Baptist Convention.