Courtesy: Iheefz – Chicago
WASHINGTON – A marriage made in Toronto was at the heart Wednesday of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on a historic day that also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California, the most populous state in the union.
The ruling on the federal U.S. legislation known as DOMA gives spouses in same-sex unions a full array of tax, health and pension benefits.
The challenge to the legislation was spearheaded by 83-year-old Edith Windsor, a New Yorker, who married her longtime partner Thea Spyer six years ago in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal for almost a decade. The couple’s marriage was recognized by New York state, but not by the federal government.
When Spyer died in 2009, the federal government cited DOMA to force Windsor, who’s now ailing, to pay $363,000 in taxes on her late wife’s estate — taxes that wouldn’t have been levied against her if she’d been married to a man.
Windsor wasn’t at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but watched from her lawyer’s apartment in New York, where she was reportedly jubilant upon word that DOMA had been struck down. The law had been in effect since 1996, when it was signed into law by a now-apologetic Bill Clinton.
“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA,” a beaming Windsor told a New York news conference.
“And those children who are gay will be free to grow up and love and be married .… If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it. And she would be so pleased.”
Also on Wednesday, the high court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by ruling that defenders of Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, had no constitutional standing. That means a lower court ruling in California that legalized same-sex marriage is again the law of the land.
The two historic rulings will likely transform the United States on same-sex marriage, an issue now widely considered a civil rights battle — and one that is dramatically winning the support of Americans.
U.S. President Barack Obama, the first commander-in-chief in American history to back same-sex marriage, praised the Supreme Court in a statement on Tuesday released after he personally called the plaintiffs involved in the two cases to congratulate them.
“This was discrimination enshrined in law,” he said.
“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
As many legal experts predicted, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy, a libertarian conservative on the panel, who broke partisan ranks on the nine-member panel and voted in favour of striking down DOMA. Kennedy had already written two judgments for the court that upheld the rights of gays.
“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote in his decision.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
The latest polls suggest the majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, compared with just 13 per cent 25 years ago.
It’s not just a generation gap that explains the profound shift, pollsters are discovering — even some older Americans are changing their minds about gay marriage, as are citizens in rural areas, from religious backgrounds and in traditionally conservative jurisdictions.
Amid that backdrop, the Supreme Court heard arguments in March against both laws. The arguments, made before the panel of five Republican appointees and four Democrats, were heard even as some high-profile Republicans, long consumed with winning over the social conservatives of their base, expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance after his college-age son revealed he was gay. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon and a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, has also backed same-sex marriage and urged his fellow Republicans to do the same.
Even Karl Rove, the powerful Republican strategist who famously brought millions of Christian evangelicals into the party fold a decade ago, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the 2016 Republican presidential candidate — whoever that may be — backs same-sex marriage.
Obama has helped embolden fellow politicians on same-sex matrimony after he reversed his own stance on the issue last year. The White House had urged the high court to rule in favour of same-sex rights.
Hillary Clinton, eyeing a run for president in 2016, has also expressed her support.
Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, said he was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling and suggested states may rule differently in the future. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 13 U.S. states.
“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said in a statement. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
The religious right vowed a battle.
In a series of Tweets, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer wrote: “Sodomy-based marriage is an egregious violation of the ‘Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’ May God have mercy on us.”
He added: “In our battle to defend marriage as God has defined it, we will never give in. We will never, never, never, never give in.”
Mike Huckabee, a onetime Republican presidential candidate, also took to Twitter to express his dismay.
“My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.'”
Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:
Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional — what makes us American — is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.
The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
For more than two hundred years, we have.
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.
No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation, and one people.
This generation of Americans has been tested by crises that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. A decade of war is now ending. An economic recovery has begun.
America’s possibilities are limitless, for we possess all the qualities that this world without boundaries demands: youth and drive; diversity and openness; an endless capacity for risk and a gift for reinvention. My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.
We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.
We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher.
But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.
For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn. We do not believe that in this country, freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us, at any time, may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm.
The commitments we make to each other — through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security — these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.
We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries — we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. Our brave men and women in uniform, tempered by the flames of battle, are unmatched in skill and courage. Our citizens, seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty.
The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn enemies into the surest of friends, and we must carry those lessons into this time as well.
We will defend our people and uphold our values through strength of arms and rule of law. We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully — not because we are naïve about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.
America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe; and we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad, for no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.
We will support democracy from Asia to Africa; from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom.
And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice — not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.
It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.
Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.
That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values — of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life; it does not mean we will all define liberty in exactly the same way, or follow the same precise path to happiness.
Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time — but it does require us to act in our time.
For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.
We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, and forty years, and four hundred years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.
My fellow Americans, the oath I have sworn before you today, like the one recited by others who serve in this Capitol, was an oath to God and country, not party or faction – and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.
But the words I spoke today are not so different from the oath that is taken each time a soldier signs up for duty, or an immigrant realizes her dream. My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.
They are the words of citizens, and they represent our greatest hope.
You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.
You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.
Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.
Thank you, God Bless you, and may He forever bless these United States of America.
With the calling of OHIO …. President Obama wins a second term as president.
With states still left to call.
Update: 1:23 a.m.
It was a nail biter tonight. It seemed at first that we had a clear winner in President Obama. But for a couple of hours the Romney camp was holding out on OHIO. They were not going to concede as it went on television.
At 1 am Romney came out after making the concession call to President Obama and came out to speak to his constituents in Boston, that indeed, the election was over with and that Obama was the winner.
It was a graceful respectful address.
We have a President… Barack Obama…
The Time is Now. It is Go BLUE or go Home. Voting is a right that every American is afforded by birth. So Tomorrow, whatever you choose to do, get out there and vote. There is no more important action that we get to participate in than the presidential election.
It will be a busy day tomorrow. Home Group and meeting. I will be home around 9 p.m. I will be live blogging the results.
And I pray that President Obama receive a second mandate for another 4 years.
Get out and vote and we shall see you tomorrow.
The Presidential Campaign is coming to an end. It is all up to you. We’ve heard all the speeches. Listened to all the debates. Hopefully, we have all thought about what it is that we need from our candidate. And which candidate will take us into the future and not send us backwards.
That Candidate is Barack Obama …
I am a Democrat Abroad, and I vote in my home state by absentee ballot. Since I am dual citizen I still have the right to vote. And I encourage you all to get out and vote next week.
The stakes could not be higher. I am a Pro-Choice voter. I believe in a woman’s right to choose her own fate. I DO NOT agree with pro-lifers who want to take a woman’s right to decide her own fate away from her. It is not up to the government to regulate a woman’s body or her uterus. I know I am only inviting a shit storm, but it must be said.
If you vote Republican, you are voting to take away a woman’s right to choose.
If you vote Republican, the United States will be turned upside down by a man who cares not for your welfare, but for the welfare of those who sit in the 1% club and who call the shots for the rest of America. A man who will, with his Republican minions, strip women of their rights.
Mitt Romney cannot be trusted to the presidency. He has proven countless times over the past few months, just how OUT OF TOUCH he is with the common man and woman. He does not have your best interests in mind. Only for those he can hire and fire, those who can add to his pot of millions. He is NOT concerned with the 47% of Americans who won’t vote for him. That message was spoken loud and clear. He doesn’t care about you. We cannot allow this man to reach elected office. There is too much on the line to gamble with.
For my LGBTQ readers, we have come a long way in just a few years. And we MUST keep up that momentum to make sure that the Entire United States gets on board with Gay Rights across the board. Gay marriage is a right. Not just for some but for all of our LGBTQ fellows and ladies.
Republicans CANNOT be trusted with our fates either. They would want to strip away the rights that we so carefully worked, lobbied and petitioned and voted for. If you care for LGBTQ people, you will vote for the candidate who will guarantee that those rights will not be repealed or halted.
Barack Obama came into office with a huge target on his back dealing with a depression that NO president ever had to deal with before. I have shared the words spoken by former President Bill Clinton. And he made the case for WHY we need to RE-ELECT Barack Obama to a second term in office.
With all that is going on in the U.S. right now, post-Sandy, it is more important than any other time in history to make sure YOU and your NEIGHBORS get out to the polling stations next week.
This is a do or die situation.
Vote for the man who can lead us out of this disaster. The man who has shown that he is capable of doing the right thing for our people around the nation. He stepped up and showed us just how much he cares about the nation and those who are suffering right now.
If you care about your life, Your community and Your Country, YOU WILL VOTE.
You MUST vote or you allow someone else’s desire to come to pass.
You Must Vote for President Barack Obama to be our commander in Chief once again, and keep us on the path to better things. The North East will survive. We will rebuild. Get out there and help your neighbors. Make sure they get out and cast their ballots next Tuesday Night, and let us make history once again.
President Barack Obama
2012 Democratic National Convention
Thursday, September 6, 2012
Michelle, I love you. The other night, I think the entire country saw just how lucky I am. Malia and Sasha, you make me so proud…but don’t get any ideas, you’re still going to class tomorrow. And Joe Biden, thank you for being the best Vice President I could ever hope for.
Madam Chairwoman, delegates, I accept your nomination for President of the United States.
The first time I addressed this convention in 2004, I was a younger man; a Senate candidate from Illinois who spoke about hope – not blind optimism or wishful thinking, but hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; that dogged faith in the future which has pushed this nation forward, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long.
Eight years later, that hope has been tested – by the cost of war; by one of the worst economic crises in history; and by political gridlock that’s left us wondering whether it’s still possible to tackle the challenges of our time.
I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me – so am I.
But when all is said and done – when you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation. Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.
On every issue, the choice you face won’t be just between two candidates or two parties.
It will be a choice between two different paths for America.
A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.
Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known; the values my grandfather defended as a soldier in Patton’s Army; the values that drove my grandmother to work on a bomber assembly line while he was gone.
They knew they were part of something larger – a nation that triumphed over fascism and depression; a nation where the most innovative businesses turned out the world’s best products, and everyone shared in the pride and success – from the corner office to the factory floor. My grandparents were given the chance to go to college, buy their first home, and fulfill the basic bargain at the heart of America’s story: the promise that hard work will pay off; that responsibility will be rewarded; that everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules – from Main Street to Wall Street to Washington, DC.
I ran for President because I saw that basic bargain slipping away. I began my career helping people in the shadow of a shuttered steel mill, at a time when too many good jobs were starting to move overseas. And by 2008, we had seen nearly a decade in which families struggled with costs that kept rising but paychecks that didn’t; racking up more and more debt just to make the mortgage or pay tuition; to put gas in the car or food on the table. And when the house of cards collapsed in the Great Recession, millions of innocent Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their life savings – a tragedy from which we are still fighting to recover.
Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years:
“Have a surplus? Try a tax cut.”
“Deficit too high? Try another.”
“Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Now, I’ve cut taxes for those who need it – middle-class families and small businesses. But I don’t believe that another round of tax breaks for millionaires will bring good jobs to our shores, or pay down our deficit. I don’t believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we’ve been through, I don’t believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We’ve been there, we’ve tried that, and we’re not going back. We’re moving forward.
I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way – those of us who carry on his party’s legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington.
But know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I’m asking you to choose that future. I’m asking you to rally around a set of goals for your country – goals in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and the deficit; a real, achievable plan that will lead to new jobs, more opportunity, and rebuild this economy on a stronger foundation. That’s what we can do in the next four years, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.
We can choose a future where we export more products and outsource fewer jobs. After a decade that was defined by what we bought and borrowed, we’re getting back to basics, and doing what America has always done best:
We’re making things again.
I’ve met workers in Detroit and Toledo who feared they’d never build another American car. Today, they can’t build them fast enough, because we reinvented a dying auto industry that’s back on top of the world.
I’ve worked with business leaders who are bringing jobs back to America – not because our workers make less pay, but because we make better products. Because we work harder and smarter than anyone else.
I’ve signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers – goods that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.
After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And now you have a choice: we can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.
You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.
Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.
We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.
And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.
You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.
For the first time in a generation, nearly every state has answered our call to raise their standards for teaching and learning. Some of the worst schools in the country have made real gains in math and reading. Millions of students are paying less for college today because we finally took on a system that wasted billions of taxpayer dollars on banks and lenders.
And now you have a choice – we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers in China because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home.
Government has a role in this. But teachers must inspire; principals must lead; parents must instill a thirst for learning, and students, you’ve got to do the work. And together, I promise you – we can out-educate and out-compete any country on Earth. Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years, and improve early childhood education. Help give two million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job. Help us work with colleges and universities to cut in half the growth of tuition costs over the next ten years. We can meet that goal together. You can choose that future for America.
In a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did. I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. We have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over. A new tower rises above the New York skyline, al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama bin Laden is dead.
Tonight, we pay tribute to the Americans who still serve in harm’s way. We are forever in debt to a generation whose sacrifice has made this country safer and more respected. We will never forget you. And so long as I’m Commander-in-Chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known. When you take off the uniform, we will serve you as well as you’ve served us – because no one who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their head, or the care that they need when they come home.
Around the world, we’ve strengthened old alliances and forged new coalitions to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. We’ve reasserted our power across the Pacific and stood up to China on behalf of our workers. From Burma to Libya to South Sudan, we have advanced the rights and dignity of all human beings – men and women; Christians and Muslims and Jews.
But for all the progress we’ve made, challenges remain. Terrorist plots must be disrupted. Europe’s crisis must be contained. Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace. The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions. The historic change sweeping across the Arab World must be defined not by the iron fist of a dictator or the hate of extremists, but by the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people who are reaching for the same rights that we celebrate today.
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will. And while my opponent would spend more money on military hardware that our Joint Chiefs don’t even want, I’ll use the money we’re no longer spending on war to pay down our debt and put more people back to work – rebuilding roads and bridges; schools and runways. After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.
You can choose a future where we reduce our deficit without wrecking our middle class. Independent analysis shows that my plan would cut our deficits by $4 trillion. Last summer, I worked with Republicans in Congress to cut $1 trillion in spending – because those of us who believe government can be a force for good should work harder than anyone to reform it, so that it’s leaner, more efficient, and more responsive to the American people.
I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 – the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot.
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy – well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m President, I never will.
I refuse to ask middle class families to give up their deductions for owning a home or raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. I refuse to ask students to pay more for college; or kick children out of Head Start programs, or eliminate health insurance for millions of Americans who are poor, elderly, or disabled – all so those with the most can pay less.
And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care – not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it – not by turning it over to Wall Street.
This is the choice we now face. This is what the election comes down to. Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing. If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s just the price of progress. If you can’t afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent’s advice and “borrow money from your parents.”
You know what? That’s not who we are. That’s not what this country’s about. As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.
But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations.
We believe that when a CEO pays his autoworkers enough to buy the cars that they build, the whole company does better.
We believe that when a family can no longer be tricked into signing a mortgage they can’t afford, that family is protected, but so is the value of other people’s homes, and so is the entire economy.
We believe that a little girl who’s offered an escape from poverty by a great teacher or a grant for college could become the founder of the next Google, or the scientist who cures cancer, or the President of the United States – and it’s in our power to give her that chance.
We know that churches and charities can often make more of a difference than a poverty program alone. We don’t want handouts for people who refuse to help themselves, and we don’t want bailouts for banks that break the rules. We don’t think government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.
Because we understand that this democracy is ours.
We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense.
As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government.
So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change.
You’re the reason there’s a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who’ll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can’t limit her coverage. You did that.
You’re the reason a young man in Colorado who never thought he’d be able to afford his dream of earning a medical degree is about to get that chance. You made that possible.
You’re the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she’s ever called home; why selfless soldiers won’t be kicked out of the military because of who they are or who they love; why thousands of families have finally been able to say to the loved ones who served us so bravely: “Welcome home.”
If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible…well, change will not happen. If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote; Washington politicians who want to decide who you can marry, or control health care choices that women should make for themselves.
Only you can make sure that doesn’t happen. Only you have the power to move us forward.
I recognize that times have changed since I first spoke to this convention. The times have changed – and so have I.
I’m no longer just a candidate. I’m the President. I know what it means to send young Americans into battle, for I have held in my arms the mothers and fathers of those who didn’t return. I’ve shared the pain of families who’ve lost their homes, and the frustration of workers who’ve lost their jobs. If the critics are right that I’ve made all my decisions based on polls, then I must not be very good at reading them. And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, “I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
But as I stand here tonight, I have never been more hopeful about America. Not because I think I have all the answers. Not because I’m naïve about the magnitude of our challenges.
I’m hopeful because of you.
The young woman I met at a science fair who won national recognition for her biology research while living with her family at a homeless shelter – she gives me hope.
The auto worker who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day, and bought flags for his whole town and one of the cars that he built to surprise his wife – he gives me hope.
The family business in Warroad, Minnesota that didn’t lay off a single one of their four thousand employees during this recession, even when their competitors shut down dozens of plants, even when it meant the owners gave up some perks and pay – because they understood their biggest asset was the community and the workers who helped build that business – they give me hope.
And I think about the young sailor I met at Walter Reed hospital, still recovering from a grenade attack that would cause him to have his leg amputated above the knee. Six months ago, I would watch him walk into a White House dinner honoring those who served in Iraq, tall and twenty pounds heavier, dashing in his uniform, with a big grin on his face; sturdy on his new leg. And I remember how a few months after that I would watch him on a bicycle, racing with his fellow wounded warriors on a sparkling spring day, inspiring other heroes who had just begun the hard path he had traveled.
He gives me hope.
I don’t know what party these men and women belong to. I don’t know if they’ll vote for me. But I know that their spirit defines us. They remind me, in the words of Scripture, that ours is a “future filled with hope.”
And if you share that faith with me – if you share that hope with me – I ask you tonight for your vote.
If you reject the notion that this nation’s promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election.
If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election.
If you believe that new plants and factories can dot our landscape; that new energy can power our future; that new schools can provide ladders of opportunity to this nation of dreamers; if you believe in a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules, then I need you to vote this November.
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless these United States.
Attorney and Women’s Rights Activist
Candidate for US Senate, Massachusetts
President Bill Clinton
42nd President of the United States
Tonight’s speaker presentation from the 10 o’clock hour well into the 11 o’clock hour was immense. It was a triple hit by three phenomenal speakers. All of them in their own right gave fantastic speeches.
President Bill Clinton spoke for more than 45 minutes tearing apart the Republican Platform tonight and gave an incredible push for the re-election of Barack Obama this November.
You can join the conversation with the Democratic National Convention here.
Here is the text of President Bill Clinton’s Speech tonight at the DNC Convention.
President Bill Clinton
42nd President of the United States
Democratic National Convention
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
We’re here to nominate a President, and I’ve got one in mind.
I want to nominate a man whose own life has known its fair share of adversity and uncertainty. A man who ran for President to change the course of an already weak economy and then just six weeks before the election, saw it suffer the biggest collapse since the Great Depression. A man who stopped the slide into depression and put us on the long road to recovery, knowing all the while that no matter how many jobs were created and saved, there were still millions more waiting, trying to feed their children and keep their hopes alive.
I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside. A man who believes we can build a new American Dream economy driven by innovation and creativity, education and cooperation. A man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.
I want Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party.
In Tampa, we heard a lot of talk about how the President and the Democrats don’t believe in free enterprise and individual initiative, how we want everyone to be dependent on the government, how bad we are for the economy.
The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made. One of our greatest Democratic Chairmen, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but it ain’t so.
We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think “we’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “you’re on your own.”
Who’s right? Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!
It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.
Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats. After all, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to my home state to integrate Little Rock Central High and built the interstate highway system. And as governor, I worked with President Reagan on welfare reform and with President George H.W. Bush on national education goals. I am grateful to President George W. Bush for PEPFAR, which is saving the lives of millions of people in poor countries and to both Presidents Bush for the work we’ve done together after the South Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.
Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other.
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. After all, nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. All of us are destined to live our lives between those two extremes. Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way. They think government is the enemy, and compromise is weakness.
One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation. He appointed Republican Secretaries of Defense, the Army and Transportation. He appointed a Vice President who ran against him in 2008, and trusted him to oversee the successful end of the war in Iraq and the implementation of the recovery act. And Joe Biden did a great job with both. He appointed Cabinet members who supported Hillary in the primaries. Heck, he even appointed Hillary! I’m so proud of her and grateful to our entire national security team for all they’ve done to make us safer and stronger and to build a world with more partners and fewer enemies. I’m also grateful to the young men and women who serve our country in the military and to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden for supporting military families when their loved ones are overseas and for helping our veterans, when they come home bearing the wounds of war, or needing help with education, housing, and jobs.
President Obama’s record on national security is a tribute to his strength, and judgment, and to his preference for inclusion and partnership over partisanship.
He also tried to work with Congressional Republicans on Health Care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn’t work out so well. Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.
Senator, I hate to break it to you, but we’re going to keep President Obama on the job!
In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President’s re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.
In order to look like an acceptable alternative to President Obama, they couldn’t say much about the ideas they have offered over the last two years. You see they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place: to cut taxes for high income Americans even more than President Bush did; to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts; to increase defense spending two trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor kids. As another President once said – there they go again.
I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.
Are we where we want to be? No. Is the President satisfied? No. Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month. The answer is YES.
I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don’t feel it.
I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn’t feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history.
President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No President – not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the President’s contract you will feel it.
I believe that with all my heart.
President Obama’s approach embodies the values, the ideas, and the direction America must take to build a 21st century version of the American Dream in a nation of shared opportunities, shared prosperity and shared responsibilities.
So back to the story. In 2010, as the President’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around.
The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people. In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs. But last year, the Republicans blocked the President’s jobs plan costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another jobs score: President Obama plus 4.5 million, Congressional Republicans zero.
Over that same period, more than more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created under President Obama – the first time manufacturing jobs have increased since the 1990s.
The auto industry restructuring worked. It saved more than a million jobs, not just at GM, Chrysler and their dealerships, but in auto parts manufacturing all over the country. That’s why even auto-makers that weren’t part of the deal supported it. They needed to save the suppliers too. Like I said, we’re all in this together.
Now there are 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than the day the companies were restructured. Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. So here’s another jobs score: Obama two hundred and fifty thousand, Romney, zero.
The agreement the administration made with management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage over the next few years is another good deal: it will cut your gas bill in half, make us more energy independent, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and add another 500,000 good jobs.
President Obama’s “all of the above” energy plan is helping too – the boom in oil and gas production combined with greater energy efficiency has driven oil imports to a near 20 year low and natural gas production to an all time high. Renewable energy production has also doubled.
We do need more new jobs, lots of them, but there are already more than three million jobs open and unfilled in America today, mostly because the applicants don’t have the required skills. We have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are being created in a world fueled by new technology. That’s why investments in our people are more important than ever. The President has supported community colleges and employers in working together to train people for open jobs in their communities. And, after a decade in which exploding college costs have increased the drop-out rate so much that we’ve fallen to 16th in the world in the percentage of our young adults with college degrees, his student loan reform lowers the cost of federal student loans and even more important, gives students the right to repay the loans as a fixed percentage of their incomes for up to 20 years. That means no one will have to drop-out of college for fear they can’t repay their debt, and no one will have to turn down a job, as a teacher, a police officer or a small town doctor because it doesn’t pay enough to make the debt payments. This will change the future for young Americans.
I know we’re better off because President Obama made these decisions.
That brings me to health care.
The Republicans call it Obamacare and say it’s a government takeover of health care that they’ll repeal. Are they right? Let’s look at what’s happened so far. Individuals and businesses have secured more than a billion dollars in refunds from their insurance premiums because the new law requires 80% to 85% of your premiums to be spent on health care, not profits or promotion. Other insurance companies have lowered their rates to meet the requirement. More than 3 million young people between 19 and 25 are insured for the first time because their parents can now carry them on family policies. Millions of seniors are receiving preventive care including breast cancer screenings and tests for heart problems. Soon the insurance companies, not the government, will have millions of new customers many of them middle class people with pre-existing conditions. And for the last two years, health care spending has grown under 4%, for the first time in 50 years.
So are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it? You bet we are.
There were two other attacks on the President in Tampa that deserve an answer. Both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the President for allegedly robbing Medicare of 716 billion dollars. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the President did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren’t making people any healthier. He used the saving to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program, and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. It’s now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.
When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama’s “biggest coldest power play” in raiding Medicare, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. You see, that 716 billion dollars is exactly the same amount of Medicare savings Congressman Ryan had in his own budget.
At least on this one, Governor Romney’s been consistent. He wants to repeal the savings and give the money back to the insurance companies, re-open the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and reduce the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by eight years. So now if he’s elected and does what he promised Medicare will go broke by 2016. If that happens, you won’t have to wait until their voucher program to begins in 2023 to see the end Medicare as we know it.
But it gets worse. They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade. Of course, that will hurt poor kids, but that’s not all. Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families, with special needs like, Downs syndrome or Autism. I don’t know how those families are going to deal with it. We can’t let it happen
Now let’s look at the Republican charge that President Obama wants to weaken the work requirements in the welfare reform bill I signed that moved millions of people from welfare to work.
Here’s what happened. When some Republican governors asked to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama Administration said they would only do it if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20%. You hear that? More work. So the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true. But they keep running ads on it. As their campaign pollster said “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.
Let’s talk about the debt. We have to deal with it or it will deal with us. President Obama has offered a plan with 4 trillion dollars in debt reduction over a decade, with two and a half dollars of spending reductions for every one dollar of revenue increases, and tight controls on future spending. It’s the kind of balanced approach proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.
I think the President’s plan is better than the Romney plan, because the Romney plan fails the first test of fiscal responsibility: The numbers don’t add up.
It’s supposed to be a debt reduction plan but it begins with five trillion dollars in tax cuts over a ten-year period. That makes the debt hole bigger before they even start to dig out. They say they’ll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code. When you ask “which loopholes and how much?,” they say “See me after the election on that.”
People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets. What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic. If they stay with a 5 trillion dollar tax cut in a debt reduction plan – the – arithmetic tells us that one of three things will happen: 1) they’ll have to eliminate so many deductions like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving that middle class families will see their tax bill go up two thousand dollars year while people making over 3 million dollars a year get will still get a 250,000 dollar tax cut; or 2) they’ll have to cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for our national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel; or they’ll cut way back on Pell Grants, college loans, early childhood education and other programs that help middle class families and poor children, not to mention cutting investments in roads, bridges, science, technology and medical research; or 3) they’ll do what they’ve been doing for thirty plus years now – cut taxes more than they cut spending, explode the debt, and weaken the economy. Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left. We simply can’t afford to double-down on trickle-down.
President Obama’s plan cuts the debt, honors our values, and brightens the future for our children, our families and our nation.
My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in. If you want a you’re on your own, winner take all society you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities – a “we’re all in it together” society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If you want every American to vote and you think its wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama. If you think the President was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama. If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is alive and well, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you should vote for Barack Obama.
I love our country – and I know we’re coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union.
If that’s what you believe, if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama.
God Bless You – God Bless America.
Courtesy: HuffingtonPost-Sam Stein
WASHINGTON — In a nod to a dramatic shift in public opinion, Barack Obama on Wednesday became the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage.
In a sit-down interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Obama completed what has been a markedly long and oft-mocked evolution on the matter.
“I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly,” Obama told Roberts, in an interview that will air in full on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday.
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,” he said.
The statement constitutes an act of political bravery on the president’s behalf, as well as a major victory for the gay rights community, which has been pushing him to declare his support for marriage equality for several years. With the issue back in the news this week, the pressure intensified.
On Sunday, Vice President Joseph Biden told NBC’s “Meet The Press” that he was personally comfortable with same-sex marriage, which was followed the next day by Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying the same.
The White House insisted that there was no daylight between the vice president’s position and the president’s, noting that Biden clarified his statement as being in reference to civil rights for gay couples. But the explanation was largely dismissed by both supporters and critics as a convenient way for the president to signal support for marriage equality without having to declare it himself.
On Tuesday evening, the state of North Carolina passed an amendment that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The president expressed his disappointment with the measure, but it remained difficult to square his opposition to a measure outlawing same-sex marriage with his opposition to same-sex marriage itself.
As the political pressure continued to mount, the president finally chose to speak out Wednesday, with the White House hastily scheduling a sit-down interview.
“It’s interesting, some of this is also generational,” the president said. “You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same sex equality or, you know, believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we’re talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn’t dawn on them that somehow their friends’ parents would be treated differently. It doesn’t make sense to them and frankly, that’s the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective.”
The president’s support of same-sex marriage will have little political impact, from a practical standpoint, as much of the activity on the issue is currently occurring in the states and the courts. Already the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has stopped defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. Legislation to overturn DOMA outright would likely be blocked by congressional Republicans.
The more promising path for same-sex marriage advocates remains a friendly hearing by the United States Supreme Court.
Still, the symbolism of Obama’s remarks is hard to ignore. In becoming the first president to publicly support marriage equality, he sets the bar for its political acceptance. He also has the ability to shape public opinion further on the matter.
Of course, there may be drawbacks to such a strong expression of support. While recent polls show that popular support for marriage equality is gaining widespread acceptance, some pivotal swing states remain largely opposed to the concept. And one of them, North Carolina, remains a major target for the president’s reelection campaign.
“The question is, is there a risk?” a prominent Democratic Party official who requested anonymity told The Huffington Post after Biden’s remarks. “It is not nationwide [polling] we are talking about. We are talking about Virginia, North Carolina and other swing states. And we are talking about, would Karl Rove and his team stoop to using horribly grotesque and hateful tactics … and would that peel off 10,000 votes?”
As of Wednesday, that question was hypothetical. Now, it’s a critical component of the 2012 election.
What an incredible few days it has been, on many fronts. What a weekend it was for Mr. President. A very gutsy man with balls of steel and a resolve just the same. Who knew from Adam what was going on in his head over the weekend seeing him traveling in the U.S. and yukking it up at the Correspondents dinner on Saturday night.
And who knew what Sunday would bring … I just cannot imagine.
I am sure that Mr. Obama’s stock has risen over the past few days. This kill shot was something that I think will translate into better numbers and even help him in the long run for re-election. At least I hope that is what happens. That’s all we need is for some jamokey republican asshole to win an election, God forbid.
At this point I think the White House is channeling some Ricky Ricardo when he says to Lucy “You got some ‘splainin to do!” Pakistan is not going to skate away with this gigantic intelligence flub. Someone was protecting Osama. Someone must have known he was there, I mean it’s pretty clear from all the information that has been released about this event.
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We have had a Royal Wedding, The beatification of John Paul II in Rome, the killing of Osama bin Laden and an election here in Canada. The fallout from the election is huge. The Orange wave came to Quebec and took the province by storm. There were incredible losses for the Bloq. The Bloq leader lost his seat in an upset, and in the end resigned from his position as party leader, not to mention the Bloq lost party status in the House of Parliament. You must have at least 12 seats to be afforded party status, and the Bloq lost in a bloodbath last night. So the Bloq is all but kaput. So much for that referendum.
Mr. Layton won a huge number of ridings here in Quebec. Many freshman young M.P’s are going to Ottawa, and we are so proud of the huge wins by the NDP. Not to mention with 102 seats won, for the first time in history the NDP wins the coveted title of Official Opposition Party in the commons. I mean the room went nuts when Jack Layton walked out to greet the party. My vote made a difference.
The Conservatives won a majority. As I have read on other blogs tonight, the earth did not shift on its axis, we will all survive this. And in the end we hope the government does what it said it will do. Canada needs to work to protect the people of Canada, we need more jobs, a secure financial sector and we need to solidify our place in the worlds eyes.
I questioned the ability of Mr. Ignatieff to win anything that’s why a lot of voters went with Jack. The Liberal party was decimated last night. The leader of the party as well, lost his seat and resigned from the party this morning. A leadership convention is coming. There is rumbling about Justin Trudeau, can he step up, if he is tapped as the heir apparent? Can the magic happen? Justin won’t say what he is going to do to that end just yet. At least he won his riding for the Liberal party, beating out the Bloq incumbent.
We saw history happen last night. The total collapse of the Bloq and the Liberal party. I heard it mentioned on the news coverage about Canada moving towards a two party system in Parliament. It seems the voters were over all the drama and political bullshit and we all voted for change and hope. The voters have spoken. Now the parties MUST rise to the occasion and do what they have been mandated to do.
A good chunk of Quebec went orange, with hints of red and blue here and there. Mr. Layton’s crop of young bloods have got some serious shoes to fill.
So much to look forwards to in the coming months.
*** *** *** ***
Here on the home front we are in the final weeks of classes. I have class tomorrow night and then a final and essay due on Thursday night, which I still have to write yet, then my final interview to come next week on the 9th.
It rained today. But numbers were nominal for the meeting. Lots of new faces and the conversation was nice and lively. We are pleased with what we have for today.
*** *** *** ***
So what do we know ???
- The Princess got her man
- Obama got Osama
- The NDP won big in Canada
Life goes on and we will all survive. The world is a safer place because the face and person of evil is dead and is floating at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, Thanks be to God.
The era of Osama is over.
Well Done Mr. President. We are so very proud of you…
Courtesy: Rachel Maddow Blog
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Just ashamed … what else do we have to say?
By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON – The Democratic-controlled Congress handed President Barack Obama a huge victory Sunday night extending health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans and cracking down on insurance company abuses, a climactic chapter in the century-long quest for near universal coverage.
Widely viewed as dead two months ago, the Senate-passed bill cleared the House on a 219-212 vote, with Republicans unanimous in opposition.
Congressional officials said they expected Obama to sign the bill as early as Tuesday. He was expected to make a statement following the vote.
The stakes could not have been higher for Obama’s presidency. Republicans hoped that by blocking the legislation, they would be able to thwart the president’s ambitious domestic agenda, including immigration reform and climate change legislation.
Obama watched the vote in the White House’s Roosevelt Room with Vice-President Joe Biden and about 40 staff aides. When the long sought 216th vote came in – the magic number needed for passage – the room burst into applause and hugs. An exultant president exchanged a high-five with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.
While national health care has been a goal of presidents stretching back decades, it has proved elusive, in part because self-reliance and suspicion of a strong central government remain strong in the U.S.
After more than a year of political combat – certain to persist into the fall election campaign for control of Congress – debate on the House floor fell along predictable lines.
Immediately following the vote, Democrats turned back a Republican move to undo the bill by a vote of 219-212. Republicans argued the legislation would permit the use of federal money to pay for abortions.
“We will be joining those who established Social Security, Medicare and now, tonight, health care for all Americans,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the vote, referring the government’s pension program and health insurance for the elderly established nearly 50 years ago.
“This is the civil rights act of the 21st century,” added Rep. Jim Clyburn, the top-ranking black member of the House.
Republicans readily agreed the bill would affect everyone in America, but warned repeatedly of the burden imposed by more than $900 billion in tax increases and Medicare cuts combined.
“We have failed to listen to America,” said Rep. John Boehner, leader of a party that has vowed to carry the fight into November’s midterm elections for control of Congress.
Earlier in the day, the House argued its way through a thicket of Republican objections toward an evening vote on the bill to extend coverage to 32 million Americans who lack it, ban insurers from denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions and cut deficits by an estimated $138 billion over a decade.
A shouting band of protesters outside the Capitol dramatized their opposition, and one man stood up in the House visitor’s gallery shouting, “Kill the bill” before he was ushered out – evidence of the passions the yearlong debate over health care has stirred.
Obama lobbied by phone from the White House, then took the crucial step of issuing an executive order that satisfied a small group of Democrats who demanded that no federal funds be used for elective abortions.
Over and over, Democrats stressed the historic nature of the day. The measure represents the biggest expansion of the social safety net since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965 during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration to provide government-funded health care coverage to the elderly and poor.
“Health care isn’t only a civil right, it’s a moral issue,” said Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy. He said his late father, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, had worked his entire career for nationwide health care, and President John F. Kennedy before him.
Obama has said often that presidents of both parties have tried without success to achieve national health insurance, beginning with Theodore Roosevelt early in the 20th century.
The 44th president’s quest to succeed where others have failed seemed at a dead end two months ago, when Republicans won a special election to fill Edward Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat, and with it, enough votes to prevent a final vote.
But the White House, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid soon came up with a rescue plan that required the House to approve the Senate-passed measure despite opposition to many of its provisions, then have both chambers pass a fix-it measure incorporating numerous changes.
Under the legislation, most Americans would be required to purchase insurance, and face penalties if they refused. Much of the money in the bill would be devoted to subsidies to help families at incomes of up to $88,000 a year pay their premiums.
The legislation would also usher in a significant expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor.
The insurance industry would come under new federal regulation. They would be forbidden from placing lifetime dollar limits on policies, from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions and from cancelling policies when a policyholder becomes ill.
Parents would be able to keep older children on their coverage up to age 26. A new high-risk pool would offer coverage to uninsured people with medical problems until 2014, when the coverage expansion goes into high gear.
Once enacted, the two bills would create a series of so-called “insurance exchanges” beginning in 2014 where self-employed people and small businesses could pool together to shop for health care coverage.
To pay for the changes, the legislation includes more than $400 billion in higher taxes over a decade, roughly half of it from a new Medicare payroll tax on individuals with incomes over $200,000 and couples over $250,000.
Associated Press writers David Espo, Jim Kuhnhenn and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
“I will work with Congress and the military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are.”
One step closer …
From: The White House Blog
Found on: DC Agenda.com
Posted on 01 December 2009 by Chris Johnson
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the conference will bring together 30,000 scientists, policy makers and activists from around the world. (Photo by Michael Key)
Touting U.S. dedication to combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, top Obama administration officials formally announced Monday that D.C. will host the 19th international AIDS conference in 2012.
The announcement came at a White House event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as part of the commemoration of World AIDS Day, which is geared toward heightening awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic through the globe.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the conference would help foster discussion on combating HIV/AIDS.
“This conference will draw together an estimated 30,000 researchers, scientists, policy makers, health care providers, activists and others from around the world,” she said.
The U.S. is able to host the conference after repealing the administrative ban that prevents HIV-positive foreign nationals from entering the country. The repeal, implemented earlier this year, is expected to go into effect Jan 4.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, praised the end of the ban during the event and said it will help the U.S. continue its lead in the global fight against HIV/AIDS.
“The HIV entry ban was a policy that tore apart families, kept people from getting tested, forced others to hide their HIV status and forgo live-saving medications,” she said. “And most of all, it didn’t reflect America’s leadership in fighting the disease around the world.”
Since many participants for the international AIDS conference are foreign nationals who are HIV positive, the ban had prevented the event from occurring in the U.S. The last U.S. conference took place in 1990 in San Francisco. Another was scheduled in Boston in 1992, but was moved to Amsterdam out of concerns over the U.S. ban.
Elly Katabura, the Uganda-based president-elect of the International AIDS Society and international chair of the conference, said his organization decided to hold the event in the U.S. after the Obama administration lifted the HIV travel ban.
“This change is a significant victory for public health and human rights,” he said. “The IAS now calls on all countries that still have similar policies that restrict free movement of people with HIV and AIDS through their borders to remove them immediately.”
The decision to hold the conference in D.C. also is significant because the HIV/AIDS epidemic has hit the city hard. Around 3 percent of D.C. residents are known to have HIV/AIDS.
D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who attended Monday’s event, told D.C. Agenda that hosting the conference in the district will help raise awareness of “how this disease is affecting inner cities in the United States of America.”
“Hopefully, by having it here, by being the showcase with the biggest problems and what we’re doing to solve them, we’ll also come up with new ideas that will be taken around to places throughout this country and the world following the conference in 2012,” he said.
Sebelius said HIV/AIDS still has an impact on LGBT people throughout the country, particularly those who are black. She said in five major U.S. cities, almost half of all black gay men are HIV positive.
But officials touted the work the administration and Congress has done in confronting this epidemic both at home and abroad, including the reauthorization of funds under the Ryan White Care Act to provide assistance to low-income people with HIV/AIDS and the inclusion of HIV/AIDS provisions in health care reform legislation before Congress.
The development of a national AIDS strategy also is underway. Sebelius noted the administration is holding town hall meetings in cities throughout the country to hear concerns about addressing the epidemic.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser and assistant to Obama for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement, said HIV/AIDS is a “personal” issue for the president, particularly with regard to the domestic epidemic.
“He has said that we’re not always very good at talking about HIV/AIDS,” she said. “We have to do a better job of talking about it in our places of worship, throughout our communities and our organizations, our schools and, of course, our workplace.”
Reflecting on the symbols of World AIDS Day, including the large AIDS ribbon that adorned the White House in recognition of the occasion, Jarrett said fighting HIV/AIDS is “deep and personal” for her and that her sister-in-law died a “tragic death.”
“I saw the other members of her family and 5-year-old daughter, as well, all struggle with her death,” she said. “I’ve also had close friends who have either passed away as a result of AIDS or who are living with AIDS right now.”
The issue of how discrimination against LGBT people abroad interferes with combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic also was discussed during the event.
Clinton said the Obama administration would “combat discrimination” around the world, noting how international efforts against HIV/AIDS are “hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment.”
“We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide,” she said, drawing applause from the audience. “It is an unacceptable step backwards on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to fight the disease worldwide.”
Additional efforts to confront the global epidemic are expected to emerge soon. Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, said he planned later this week to unveil the new five-year strategy for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an effort designed to fight the global AIDS crisis first implemented by former President George W. Bush.
He said the new strategy “will focus on sustainability” as well as programs that are “country-owed and economy-driven” and “address HIV/AIDS in the context of the broader health needs.”
Filed by: Waymon Hudson- Bilerico Website
October 30, 2009 2:00 PM
President Obama announced an end to the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban during the signing ceremony for the vital Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act this afternoon.
The travel ban, a legacy of Jesse Helms, has been in place since 1987. It prevented HIV+ non-U.S. citizens from traveling or immigrating to the United States unless granted a special waiver from the the Department of Homeland Security.
Here’s some of what Obama had to say (Read the full transcript here):
Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.
If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.
Some details according to Kerry Eleveld over at the Advocate:
Congress passed the policy reversal last summer under the leadership of Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (D-OR) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA); former President George W. Bush signed it into law, but the Administration was unable to finalize the change before his term ended.
The new regulation eliminates any travel and immigration restrictions that are tied to a person’s HIV status. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put the wheels of change in motion in late June by publishing the proposed regulation to the federal register, which triggered a 45-day public comment period. HHS has now sent the final change to the Office of Management and Budget for approval, but the source said HHS would not be able to fully implement the new regulation for another 60 days following the president’s announcement.
In the intervening months, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has directed its officers to place holds on any decisions regarding green card applications that are based solely on an individual’s HIV status pending full implementation of the new rule.
Immigration Equality, which has been pushing for lifting the restrictions, had this to say:
We are proud to have been part of a tremendous coalition, including Senator John Kerry, former Senator Gordon Smith, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who have worked tirelessly to repeal this ban. Every day, Immigration Equality hears from individuals and families who have been separated because of the ban, with no benefit to the public health. Now, those families can be reunited, and the United States can put its mouth where its money is: ending the stigma that perpetuates HIV transmission, supporting science, and welcoming those who seek to build a life in this country. Today’s announcement is proof that immigration laws that separate families and stigmatize communities are always destined to fail.
Also key was the extension of the Ryan White Act. The three-year extension of the lifesaving legislation funds an array of innovative and effective services that form the healthcare safety net for uninsured and underinsured Americans living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Government Accountability Office, the program helps about 500,000 annually.
The Ryan White Care Act, first enacted in 1990, is the nation’s largest federally funded program for people living HIV/AIDS.
“No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hand of the person they love.”
Here are the remarks President Obama made a few minutes ago following the signing of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act into law.
“After more than a decade of delay, we have passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are.”
“As a nation we’ve come far on the journey toward a more perfect union and today we’re taking another step forward.”
He described hate crimes as “… crimes that are meant not only to break bones but to break spirits, not only to inflict harm but to inspire fear. We understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights from unjust laws and violent acts and we understand how necessary this law continues to be.”
Lifted from: An Inch at a Time.
Taken from: CNN. com Online report
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Senate passed groundbreaking legislation Thursday that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.
The expanded federal hate crimes law now goes to President Obama’s desk. Obama has pledged to sign the measure, which was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill.
President George W. Bush had threatened to veto a similar measure.
The bill is named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas the same year.
“Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile,” said Judy Shepard, board president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation named for her son. “Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families.”
Several religious groups have expressed concern that a hate-crimes law could be used to criminalize conservative speech relating to subjects such as abortion or homosexuality.
Attorney General Eric Holder has asserted that any federal hate-crimes law would be used only to prosecute violent acts based on bias, as opposed to the prosecution of speech based on controversial racial or religious beliefs.
Holder called Thursday’s 68-29 Senate vote to approve the defense spending bill that included the hate crimes measure “a milestone in helping protect Americans from the most heinous bias-motivated violence.”
“The passage of this legislation will give the Justice Department and our state and local law enforcement partners the tools we need to deter and prosecute these acts of violence,” he said in a statement.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called the measure “our nation’s first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
“Too many in our community have been devastated by hate violence,” Solmonese said in a statement. “We now can begin the important steps to erasing hate in our country.”
This month, Obama told the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights group, that the nation still needs to make significant changes to ensure equal rights for gays and lesbians.
“Despite the progress we’ve made, there are still laws to change and hearts to open,” he said during his address at the dinner for the Human Rights Campaign. “This fight continues now, and I’m here with the simple message: I’m here with you in that fight.”
Among other things, Obama has called for the repeal of the ban on gays serving openly in the military, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He also has urged Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass the Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act.
The Defense of Marriage Act defines marriage, for federal purposes, as a legal union between a man and a woman. It allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages. The Domestic Partners Benefit and Obligations Act would extend family benefits now available to heterosexual federal employees to gay and lesbian federal workers.
More than 77,000 hate-crime incidents were reported by the FBI between 1998 and 2007, or “nearly one hate crime for every hour of every day over the span of a decade,” Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee in June.
The FBI, Holder added, reported 7,624 hate-crime incidents in 2007, the most current year with complete
Editors’ Note: Michael Rajner is a Bilerico-Florida blogger. We’re bumping this post up to Bilerico Project and crossposting it on all of our state sites. Please add the post to your Facebook page, Twitter it and/or steal it for your own blog.
AIDS Action is prompting the national HIV/AIDS community to take action and call President Obama and Secretary Sebelius to demand that Congress act to extend the Ryan White Care Act before
it sunsets on September 30, 2009. Unless Congress and the President take action, the Ryan White AIDS Program will be terminated in 8 weeks and the federal government will shut the doors of access to critical care, treatment and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
As America experiences a national crisis involving healthcare reform, conservative groups are actively disrupting town hall meetings for Members of Congress to listen to the challenges of people falling out of medical care simply because they are not eligible for health care coverage or they just find the system of care impossible to navigate.
TAKE ACTION: Call The White House and Secretary Sebelius and tell them to voice their support to Congress for extending the Ryan White Program. For talking points and contact numbers, click on the link for AIDS Action’s Action Alert.
The first step to ending the HIV travel ban in the United States has been taken by the Obama administration. The Office of Management and Budget posted a notice on its site Friday afternoon indicating that the department of Health and Human Services could move forward with steps to change a regulation that has restricted HIV-positive people from gaining entrance into the United States. The proposed change will likely have an impact on both travel and immigration to the United States. Under current regulations, non-U.S. citizens who are HIV-positive cannot travel to the United States unless they are granted a waiver by the Department of Homeland Security. Immigrants have also been required to be tested for HIV. The actual regulatory change, however, will not be available until next week and advocates are waiting to analyze the exact language.
If implemented, the repeal should be in place by this fall.
I never had a problem getting into the United States. Nobody asked me, and nobody needed to know. This will be good news to travelers world wide. Hopefully this will come into effect sooner than later.
The United States is still the same country it was a year ago, give or take about 6 million jobs. But its international branding campaign, as led by the new President, Barack Obama, is so different that the rest of the world might be forgiven if it has to do a double take.
Most of the hallmarks of the foreign policy of George W. Bush are gone. The old conservative idea of “American exceptionalism,” which placed the U.S. on a plane above the rest of the world as a unique beacon of democracy and financial might, has been rejected. At almost every stop, Obama has made clear that the U.S. is but one actor in a global community. Talk of American economic supremacy has been replaced by a call from Obama for more growth in developing countries. Claims of American military supremacy have been replaced with heavy emphasis on cooperation and diplomatic hard labor. (Read “Obama in Europe: Facing Four Big Challenges.”)
The tone was set from Obama’s first public remarks in London on Wednesday, at a press conference with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, where the American President said he had come “to listen, not to lecture.” At a joint appearance with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Baden-Baden on Friday, a German reporter asked Obama about his “grand designs” for NATO. “I don’t come bearing grand designs,” Obama said, scrapping the leadership role the U.S. maintained through the Cold War. “I’m here to listen, to share ideas and to jointly, as one of many NATO allies, help shape our vision for the future.”
On Thursday night, after the G-20 summit ended, Obama took so many questions from the foreign press, including British, Indian and Chinese reporters, that a group of them applauded when he left the stage. Two American reporters asked Obama for his response to the claim by Brown that the “Washington consensus is over.” Obama all but agreed with Brown, noting that the phrase had its roots in a significant set of economic policies that had shown itself to be imperfect. He went on to talk about the benefits of increasing economic competition with the U.S. “That’s not a loss for America,” he said of the economic rise of other powers. “It’s an appreciation that Europe is now rebuilt and a powerhouse. Japan is rebuilt, is a powerhouse. China, India – these are all countries on the move. And that’s good.”
At a town hall in Strasbourg, France, Obama stood before an audience of mostly French and German youth and admitted that the U.S. should have a greater respect for Europe. “In America, there’s a failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world,” he said before offering other European critical views of his country. “There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.”
The contrast is striking. Only four years ago, George W. Bush, in his second Inaugural Address, described what he called America’s “considerable” influence, saying, “We will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.” Bush’s vision of American power was combative and aggressive. He said the U.S. would “seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.” He continued, “We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom.”
Obama, by contrast, is looking for collaboration. He is looking to build a collective vision, not to impose an American one. And the response has been notable, from the endless flashbulbs that fired off at his town hall to the cheers of spectators who lined his motorcade routes and gathered outside his events in London. At the end of Obama’s Friday press conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed the issue directly, speaking through an interpreter. “It feels really good to be able to work with a U.S. President who wants to change the world and who understands that the world does not boil down to simply American frontiers and borders,” he said. “And that is a hell of a good piece of news for 2009.”
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration on Wednesday formally endorsed a U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had refused to sign.
The move was the administration’s latest in reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by human rights and other groups. The United States was the only western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at the U.N. General Assembly in December.
“The United States supports the U.N.’s statement on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared their support of the statement,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.
“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” Wood told reporters. “As such, we join with other supporters of this statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora.”
The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the administration would endorse the statement.
Gay rights groups hailed the move.
“The administration’s leadership on this issue will be a powerful rebuke of an earlier Bush administration position that sought to deny the universal application of human rights protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals,” said Mark Bromley of the Council for Global Equality, which promotes equal rights for homosexuals.
“This is long past overdue and we are encouraged by the signal it sends that the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will now be considered human rights,” said Rea Carey, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Human rights groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the statement when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.
According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those sections could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
But Wood said a “careful interagency review” by the Obama administration had concluded that “supporting this statement commits us to no legal obligations.”
When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.’s 192 member countries signed the nonbinding declaration, which backers called an historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination. It was endorsed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia and Mexico.
But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality — and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.
Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to “the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts” such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration will endorse a U.N. declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalization of homosexuality that then-President George W. Bush had refused to sign, The Associated Press has learned.
U.S. officials said Tuesday they had notified the declaration’s French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter. The Bush administration was criticized in December when it was the only western government that refused to sign on.
The move was made after an interagency review of the Bush administration’s position on the nonbinding document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as Japan, Australia, Mexico and three dozen other countries, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress was still being notified of the decision. They said the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the United States supports human rights for all.
“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” said one official.
“As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora,” the official said.
The official added that the United States was concerned about “violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals” and was also “troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries.”
“In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation ‘has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom’,” the official said.
Gay rights and other groups had criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19. U.S. officials said then that the U.S. opposed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but that parts of the declaration raised legal questions that needed further review.
According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those parts could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how the Obama administration had come to a different conclusion.
When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.’s 192 member countries signed the declaration — which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination.
But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality — and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.
Some Islamic countries said at the time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to “the social normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts” such as pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the Vatican.
Courtesy: CBC.CA Online
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Barack Obama shook hands and smiled Thursday as the U.S. president arrived on Parliament Hill for a meeting during which the two leaders are expected to take the first step toward a North American climate change treaty.
The pact involves carbon capturing, sequestration and the development of a so-called “smart grid,” or a more efficient power transmission and distribution system to save energy and reduce costs, White House officials told Reuters.
Obama, on his first foreign trip since taking office, arrived just before noon by motorcade at the Centre Block rotunda of Parliament Hill shortly after leaving the Ottawa International Airport.
The leaders met privately for 33 minutes, a session originally slated to last only 10 minutes. They then moved on to a meeting and working lunch with their staff teams. The president and the prime minister are scheduled to hold a joint news conference at 2:45 p.m. ET.
Cameras were briefly allowed into the Prime Minister’s Office, where both men were seen smiling and chatting.
“Thank you so much for having me,” Obama said to Harper as they stood and shook hands for the cameras.
“It’s a great honour to have you here on your first visit. We really appreciate it,” Harper said.
A senior PMO official said the private meeting gave the leaders a chance to establish a “good rapport. This was a good start and bodes well for the rest of the day.”
When the president arrived on the Hill, he waved to a cheering crowd of an estimated 2,500 people who had gathered in front, hoping to catch a glimpse of the U.S. leader.
Clary Fraser, who drove from Toronto to take in the moment, said he was in Birmingham, Ala., during a tragic race bombing in 1963.
“No one, no one in the world would have dreamed, could suggest that there would one day be a black president of the United States,” Fraser said.
Obama had been greeted at the airport by Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean after Air Force One touched down around 10:30 a.m.
An RCMP honour guard lined the airport tarmac as Obama was welcomed by the Governor General and other officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Michael Wilson, the Canadian ambassador to the U.S.
Obama, who was wearing a long, dark coat with a dark crimson scarf tucked into the collar, and Jean, who was wearing a long, charcoal coat and matching hat, smiled and chatted as they walked side by side toward the airport terminal.
Crowds of people braved the light snow and chilly, damp weather to line the heavily guarded and barricaded streets of Ottawa. Busloads of police started arriving in the downtown area around 7:30 a.m. ET to start shutting down the streets.
The RCMP arrested a 20-year-old man Thursday morning who apparently tried to jump a barrier set up on Parliament Hill. The man is being questioned.
Yellow-jacketed officers are patrolling the streets by foot, scanning the sidewalks for any suspicious items.
Afghanistan, economy on agenda
During their meeting, the president, who took office in January, is expected to gauge the prime minister’s views on the future of the Afghanistan mission, as well as discuss what each country is doing to get the global economy back on its feet, CBC national affairs editor Chris Hall said.
Almost certain to come up is the controversial “Buy American” provision in the $787-billion US stimulus package Obama signed into law this week, despite fierce lobbying efforts by Canadian officials against the measure.
In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Harper warned that protectionist measures are the greatest threat to the global economy and that Canada will take action if the U.S. violates its international trade agreements.
Obama said in an interview this week with CBC chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge that Canadians should not be “too concerned” about the “Buy American” clause and that the U.S. would abide by trade agreements such as NAFTA, “just as we always have.”
He also said that he did not plan to make a specific request for Harper to reconsider Canada’s decision to end the military component of its mission in Afghanistan.
Obama will not address Parliament during his six-hour visit, but will meet with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at the airport before departing for Washington at around 4:30 p.m. ET.
Ignatieff said he viewed his meeting with Obama later in the day as a “get-to-know.
“I think I want to excite Mr. Obama with the possibilities of working with Canada,” Ignatieff told CBC’s Susan Bonner outside the House of Commons. “There is so much we can do together.”
He said he wouldn’t use his time with Obama to “score political points” in the meeting, but added it was “appropriate for the Americans to be skeptical about the credibility of this government with respect to the environment.”
With files from the Canadian Press