Is It A Debate If No One Attends?

The big Value Voters debate scheduled to be held in Florida tomorrow looks like it is going to be a flop of somewhat biblical proportions as the big 3 1/2 in the GOP running for the White House in 2008 will not be attending. Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and the 1/2 candidate John McCain (he seems to be a bit forgetful lately) have declined to attend and the right-wing base isn’t all too happy (Warning:WorldNetDaily link).

But at least the far righties will still be able to hear from newly minted 3rd times a charm values candidate Alan Keyes along with other top tiered candidates (tongue firmly in cheek) Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and John Cox.

The absence of the top candidates begs the question, are national Republicans starting to back away from what some consider to be the extreme Christian right? Or do they realize that their pasts do not measure up to Conservative template and therefore see no gain in attending a debate sponsored by that group? Either way, unlike 2000 and 2004 when the far-right swept George Bush into the White House, 2008 might be showing a crack in the right wing’s armor as far as their influence in national races.

Time will tell if that is true but if the GOP ever wants to appeal to those of us that left the party, less pandering to the Religious Right and more discussions on real issues like health care, education, and the economy will need to take place instead of the continued push of the extremist views of the right-wing.

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Petiton Not Required

Update Below

As was expected, the latest incarnation of our legislator’s attempt to ban abortions passed through the House State Affairs Committee yesterday by a 10-3 vote which means that it is now headed to the full house. It did end up getting changed slightly as the committee members made things just a bit easier on the pro-choice side by requiring that if this bill does indeed pass and get signed into law that it will automatically go to a vote by the residents of South Dakota before making it’s long and expensive taxpayer funded trip through the court system. Not that this is a big deal as I have no doubt that like last year’s attempt, there would not have been any problem getting enough petition signatures to get it on the ballot but now that extra step will not be required.

Also on an interesting side note, South Dakota already has a trigger law in place that would have banned all abortions very similar to the bill that was defeated last November. This law would have automatically taken effect in the event that the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. This new legislation, if passed by the Legislature and later by voters would replace that trigger law if it somehow makes it to the SCOTUS and they end up overturning Roe.

My question is if all this eventually occurs, no matter how unlikely, how soon afterward are we facing this question again as you can bet that the zealots in Pierre will again be trying to get rid of any of exceptions that would be contained in this new trigger law and this time it would be a whole lot easier because the Roe question will no longer be hanging over their heads. I guess you can call this the gift that keeps on giving…

UPDATE: KELO is reporting that Gov. Rounds is questioning the Constitutionality of sending a bill directly to the voters without going through the usual petition referral process so it might not be a done deal yet in regards to getting this on the ballot without circulating petitions.

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Legislative Morality At Work

South Dakota legislators are again hard at work this session trying to dictate to us what we should do. This morning at 10am the House State Affairs committee begins the process of getting this year’s version of the abortion ban going. Only a few month’s after voters turned down their last attempt, they have added the exceptions that they tried to get us to believe were in the last bill including heath of the mother and rape and incest exceptions.

Last Friday, the Health and Human Services Committee passed SB187 which sought to require that hospitals give out information about emergency contraception options to rape victims. Sounds good doesn’t it? Well it would have been if they hadn’t changed the bill so that medical professionals that oppose this on religious or moral grounds would not have to follow this requirement. Now call me stupid but what would this bill now accomplish? Those believing that rape victims should get this information are already passing it along even without being legally required to do so while those that this bill was written for in the first place would still not be required to do so. Heh, let’s waste some more time why don’t we.

What I find funny is in an article in the Argus reporting on this there is a quote from Avera Health and Concerned Women for America, 2 groups opposed to requiring health care workers being bound to giving out this information.

medical personnel should not be forced to provide information that might not be factual to all groups or that could be seen as catering to certain views.

Now correct me if I’m wrong here but aren’t these 2 groups guilty of exactly what they are using as their reason for opposing this bill? So it’s ok to not give out information that is against their views but it is ok to withhold it for the same reason? Hypocrisy, you gotta love it.

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Here We Go Again?

KELO has a couple of stories regarding the possibilities of a watered down abortion ban again rearing it’s ugly head again sometime in the next few years. What is interesting is the mention by the state director of South Dakota Right to Life, Senator Brock Greenfield, that any future bill might need to contain rape and incest exceptions.

Republican state Senator Brock Greenfield of Clark says failure to get South Dakota voters to ratify last year’s ban, which contained no exceptions for rape or incest victims, means abortion opponents need to look at political reality. He says exceptions likely will be included when the time is right to bring back anti-abortion legislation.

Now maybe I was hearing things last year when we were going through the media blitz by the pro-lifer’s, but didn’t they swear up and down that that bill did contain those exceptions?

One possible saving grace for those of us that think our legislators need to be focusing on other issues this year is the fact that at least for this session, the possibility of us having to go through another round of abortion ban talk is slim as the makeup of the Senate State Affairs Committee makes getting any similar legislation through to the Senate floor unlikely.

Six of its nine members voted against last year’s abortion bill when it got to the floor of the state Senate.

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Your Tax Dollars At Work

As if you needed more proof that the government shouldn’t be involved in morality based programs.

From a pamphlet distrubted by federally funded abstinence program.

an abstinence program distributed pamphlets that suggested that the HIV virus can pass through condoms because latex is porous.

And from a federally funded pregnancy center.

A report says there were three major topics of misinformation: first, the purported relationship between abortion and breast cancer; second, the purported relationship between abortion and infertility; and third, the purported relationship between abortion and mental illness.

According to the investigators, in one instance, a center compared the post-traumatic stress of an abortion to that seen in soldiers returning from Vietnam and said that it “is something that anyone who’s had an abortion is sure to suffer from.”

It’s not like the people seeking this advice don’t have enough to worry about already, they now have to deal with outright false information, all coming from programs American taxpayers are funding.

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Do we really want to put discrimination into our constitution? Amendment C will do just that. What’s next painting large “A’s” on the foreheads of adulterers, or maybe burning witches at the stake? Sound silly? Well these are all instances from the past that at the time seemed like good ideas brought forward based on religious beliefs. Amendment C is no different, it’s just the latest incarnation of these policies.

Vote no on discrimination…

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What We Have To Look Forward To?

There has been a lot of rhetoric from supporters of Amendment C on what the actual meaning is behind their attempt to make the state not recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships or other quasi-marital relationships between two or more persons regardless of sex.

Along those lines here are a few examples from the mail bag of what supporters of similar bans in other states said when trying to pass the bans and what they did once the bans did indeed pass.

Organization Backing Amendment Said Purpose Was Only to “Define Marriage” Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association in Michigan, dismissed fears that the amendment would impact domestic partnerships. According to The Ann Arbor News, “Glenn called that claim a scare tactic and insists public and private employers would continue to offer domestic-partner benefits if they wanted to.” When asked about the threat to domestic partner policies, he said, “Under that policy, every single person currently receiving any kind of benefit would continue to do so.” (Jackson Citizen Patriot, 10/23/04, Metro Times, 10/20/04)

Amendment Backer Said It Had “Nothing To Do With Taking Benefits
: In 2005, Marlene Elwell of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage,
which supported the Michigan amendment, said, “This has nothing to do with
taking benefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman.”
CFPM campaign literature also claimed “This is not about rights or
benefits…It merely settles the question once and for all what marriage is….”
And CFPM’s attorney, Eric Doster, told both the media and in testimony to
the Michigan Board of State Canvassers that the amendment would not impact
domestic partner contracts. (USA Today, 10/15/04; CFPM campaign literature, Associated Press, 8/24/04)

Amendment Backers Sued To Stop University Benefits: In July 2006,
the American Family Association of Michigan filed a lawsuit to stop
Michigan State University from offering health insurance benefits for
domestic partners. The lawsuit argued that the benefits violated the state’s
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
(Detroit Free Press, 6/6/06)

Local Governments In Michigan Prohibited From Granting Domestic
Partner Benefits
: In March 2005, the Michigan state Attorney General
Mike Cox issued an opinion stating that local jurisdictions and
governmental entities, such as school boards, were prohibited from offering
domestic partner benefits to their employees due to the constitutional
amendment passed in 2004. The issue is now before the Michigan Supreme
Court. The American Family Association of Michigan has filed a brief in
support of the attorney general’s position. (Associated Press, 3/16/04)

State Workers In Michigan Denied Domestic Partner Benefits: In
December 2004, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm stripped domestic
partner benefits for same-sex couples for state workers under new union
contracts, citing the “legal cloud” created by the constitutional marriage
amendment. (Detroit Free Press, 12/2/04)

Remember before voting, this Amendment has nothing to do with “protecting the sanctity of marriage” as gay marriage has already been outlawed in South Dakota and what quite possibly could result might have a far greater impact than what the supporters would like you to think.

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"Our Future Is Grim"

GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave from Colorado believes that there is only one “important issue that we face today” and that we could face a grim future.

So you would think that she is worried about the “war on terror” or some other conflict we are facing abroad, but if if thought that you would be wrong. Musgrave’s dire predictions are in fact related to the bill she is sponsoring in the House that would ban gay marriage.

Musgrave declared that gay marriage “is the most important issue that we face today.” She told the audience that “when you’re in a cultural war like this, you have to respond with equal and hopefully greater force if you want to win,” and warned that the “future is grim” if gay marriage is not banned.

You just have to love those far right-wing conservative priorities…

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Proof That You Should Always Read Before Signing

Not to say that King George didn’t read the Federal Pension Bill he signed into law yesterday, maybe he just didn’t understand what he was reading? It turns out with one signature, Bush has accomplished something that many states have been legislating against now for several years. It actually contains provisions that help gay and other non-traditional couple’s rights, at least when it comes to pensions.

The first provision allows the transfer of an individual’s retirement plan benefits to a domestic partner or other non-spouse beneficiary (sibling, parent, child, etc.) when the individual dies. Specifically, the surviving partner (or other non-spouse beneficiary) will now be able to transfer his or her deceased partner’s retirement funds into an Individual Retirement Account and either draw down the benefits over a five-year period, or over his or her own life expectancy. In the past, surviving same-sex partners or other non-spouse beneficiaries in similar situations were typically forced to withdraw the entire amount as a lump sum and incur immediate tax charges. In addition, this action often bumped the survivor into a higher tax bracket because the withdrawal was counted as taxable income to the beneficiary.

The second provision, which addresses retirement plan hardship distributions, allows gay couples (and others with non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries — siblings, parents, children, etc.) similar access to laws that permit people to draw on their retirement funds in the case of a qualifying medical or financial emergency. In the past, the federal law covered only the spouses or dependents of employees when it came to accessing retirement funds during an emergency.

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