- Created on 24 May 2013
(CNN) -- When the Boy Scouts of America found out den leader Jennifer Tyrrell is a lesbian, the organization's Ohio River Valley Council sent her a letter saying "you must immediately sever any relationship you may have" with the Scouts.
"You should understand that BSA (Boy Scouts of America) membership registration is a privilege and is not automatically granted to everyone who applies," the group wrote in the April 12, 2012, letter that Tyrrell, a 33-year-old mom in Ohio, photographed and sent to me recently. "We reserve the right to refuse registration whenever there is concern that an individual may not meet the high standards of membership the BSA seeks."
That reference to "high standards" is apparently the Boy Scouts way of saying gays and lesbian scout leaders need not apply.
You may have heard people describe the Boy Scouts as gay-friendly this week, since the group voted to amend its draconian policies that banned "open or avowed homosexuals" from participating in the group as Scouts.
The 103-year-old organization -- known for its worthwhile efforts to teach kids to tie knots, survive in the woods and become more civic-minded adults -- decided on Thursday that gay Scouts should be able to participate in the organization. But not gay and lesbian leaders.
The Boy Scouts' 1,400 voting members approved the change with more than 60% of the vote. Still, the Scouts will have a hard time escaping the organization's new reputation as a den for outdated thinking and discrimination. The group's attitudes on gay rights are "more out of style than the scout socks," said Kelsey Timmerman, a former Eagle Scout who mailed his badge back to the organization because of its discriminatory policies.
"I never wore those damn socks," he said, laughing.
It's clear the Boy Scouts are lost in the woods.
Timmerman represents the core of the scouting organization's problem. He's 34, straight and the father of two kids. He credits the Scouts with helping him become an outgoing, confident and successful person. "Scouting was awesome," he said.
But he wouldn't enroll his son in the program unless gays and lesbians are allowed to be Scouts and Scout leaders, too. He doesn't want them to learn to discriminate from an organization that claims to value kindness and bravery.
The same goes for Tyrrell, the former Tiger Cub den leader in Ohio. Her son Cruz would love to be able to participate in the Scouts again, she said. And she would love for him to be able to do so. She noticed improvements in his maturity and confidence when he was part of the group.
But she won't go back unless everyone is welcome.
"They're teaching them to be bigots essentially," she said. "This world is changing so quickly. You can't raise leaders for tomorrow on principles founded 100 years ago."
When I spoke with Tyrrell earlier, I sympathized with her wanting to celebrate the proposal to include gay Scouts as a "tiny step in the right direction."
Hundreds of thousands of people had petitioned the Scouts to allow gay kids to participate. Ryan Andresen became a national celebrity of sorts after he was refused his Eagle Scout award because he's openly gay. (Ellen DeGeneres had him on her show and gave him a $20,000 scholarship.)
I am certainly thankful the Boy Scouts did decide to allow all openly gay kids to be members.
But it's frustrating and unfair that Boy Scout leaders also affirmed discrimination against adult scout leaders. The Scouts shouldn't tell children there's nothing wrong with gay kids, but that there is something mysterious and dangerous about gay and lesbian adults.
For one thing, it's illogical.
"How does a (gay Scout) commit his life to an organization who he knows full well is going to dump him the day he turns 18?" Tyrrell asked when we spoke in April, before this week's vote. "It would be really hard for that boy to believe in trustworthiness and loyalty and all those things that are important as a Scout."
Gay kids: fine. Adults? Not so much.
The problem may be that the Scouts are listening too much instead of making decisions with conviction. They're "licking their finger and testing the wind," as Timmerman put it, trying to figure out how to please all constituencies. That's, of course, impossible. The anti-gay Family Research Council recently uploaded a YouTube video (watch it; this sort of over-produced fear-mongering has become a hilarious parody of itself) saying that the Boy Scouts were "abandoning their moral compass" by thinking of including gay Scouts.
I don't think the Boy Scouts of America has abandoned its compass.
But it's clear it still needs to be recalibrated to the times.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of John D. Sutter.
- Created on 24 May 2013
The “Get-That-N*gger” sect of the GOP is not bending on their talk of impeaching President Barack Obama. Yes, despite many Republican leaders urging their sillier members to slow down, lunatics, such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah, pictured) can’t stop, won’t stop. In an interview with the National Journal, Chaffetz claims, ”This is an admini...
- Created on 23 May 2013
President Obama has named Melvin L. Watt (D-N.C.) as overseer of government-backed mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But, there’s rising skepticism, on both the left and right, about the affable Carolinian. Questions abound as to whether Watt will become the next director of the five-year-old agency. Both liberals and conservatives disparage the choice.
The appointment is fraught with politics and comes after months of political pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to name a Black to a cabinet position and consumer advocates efforts to find a new paradigm for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Melvin Luther “Mel” Watt has served North Carolina’s 12th congressional district since 1993. An attorney from Charlotte, Watt previously served one term as a state senator and served as campaign manager for former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt. Watt practiced law from 1970 to 1992, specializing in minority business and economic development law. He has also been a partner in several small businesses.
Political heft comes into play when you plug in Watt’s senior status on the House Financial Services Committee and as a former chairman of the CBC. Watt played an influential role in the passage of a financial regulatory overhaul in 2010. That legislation, however, did not address the fate of the major mortgage lenders, an issue likely to come up during Obama’s second term.
People should recognize that Watt is a national political heavyweight. Charlotte is the 18th largest city in the U.S. and the nation’s second largest financial center. The country’s largest bank, Bank of America is headquartered in Watt’s congressional district. Forty-five percent of Watt’s campaign contributions for 2009 are from corporations in the real estate, insurance and finance industries. Watt’s contributors include American Express, Wachovia, Bank of America and the American Bankers Association. Hugh McColl, former Bank of America chairman and CEO, welcomed Watt’s nomination and said he’s known Watt’s for decades.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been “honey pots” for government appointees for decades. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two mortgage-finance companies that have operated under federal conservatorship since they were seized amid soaring losses during the 2008 credit crisis.
Watt’s salary is $179,000. The nomination comes at a pivotal moment for the government-sponsored enterprises, which back half of outstanding home loans and have returned to soaring profits after drawing more than $187.5 billion in taxpayer aid. In his role as director, Watt will also regulate the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks. The government seized Fannie and Freddie in 2008 to keep them from going bankrupt. As of March 29, the companies have received a combined $187.5 billion in bailout money. FHFA is an independent federal agency created as the successor regulatory agency resulting from the statutory merger of the Federal Housing Finance Board, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development government-sponsored enterprise mission.
This is not the first time Watt’s name has been floated for a top administrative position. The CBC lobbied to name him commerce secretary. Watt’s appointment must be confirmed by the Senate and that confirmation is not assured. A consummate politician, the 11-term congressman has been “on the Washington scene” for decades. “Mel understands as well as anybody what caused the housing crisis,” Obama said at the news conference. “He knows what it’s going to take to help responsible homeowners fully recover.” As much expertise as Watt brings to his tenure, there’s wide agreement in Washington that the government needs to shutdown Fannie and Freddie and replace their large role in the housing finance system. Between Fannie, Freddie and other agencies, the government is currently backstopping about nine out of every 10 new mortgages, stepping in to foster a functioning mortgage market as the effects of the housing downturn linger. The two financing agencies, which required a massive government bailout in 2008, have returned to profitability and are in the process of repaying taxpayers more than $100 billion.
William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.
- Created on 23 May 2013
“The findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of American history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.” Associated Press
Last July, the National Urban League released a report titled “The Hidden Swing Voters.” Our report predicted that the African American vote would tip the scales in the 2012 election of Barack Obama, especially in several key swing states – just as it had been a decisive factor in 2008. Last week, a Census Bureau report confirmed our analysis. Not only did the 2012 Black vote make the difference in several key swing states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the biggest prize of all, Ohio, but Black voter turnout surpassed the White vote for the first time in history.
The Census Bureau found that, “About two in three eligible blacks (66.2 percent) voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non–Hispanic whites who did so. This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.”
Since 1996 Black voter turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points, and the number of Blacks who voted in 2012 rose by about 1.7 million over 2008. This is even more remarkable given that overall voting among eligible citizens declined last year. It also demonstrates that in the face of a widespread voter suppression campaign, a record number of Blacks heeded the National Urban League’s call to “Occupy the Vote” – a campaign which reached 10 million people through traditional and social media, phone banking and grassroots and community outreach. In fact, all Census divisions where voting rates of Blacks exceeded those of Whites included states that introduced major voter suppression tactics in the year leading up to the election.
While the National Urban League does not endorse candidates, we do encourage civic engagement, and our affiliates have always played leading roles in voter registration drives. That is why we are also pleased that African Americans registered in record numbers last year. The registration rate for Blacks rose from 69.7 percent in 2008 to 73.1 percent in 2012 – the highest registration rate ever recorded. In Ohio, where 96 percent of the African American vote went to President Obama, the Black registration rate was 74.4 percent. In North Carolina, a state the president lost this time around, African American registration increased from 71 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2012 with 80.2 percent of eligible Black voters going to the polls, up from 68.1 percent four years ago.
The increase in Black voter participation is an historic turning point for several reasons. First, it is clear that Mitt Romney would have eked out a victory in 2012 if voters had turned out at 2004 levels when White turnout was higher and Black turnout was lower. Second, due to an increase in overall minority voting, people of color will be wielding even more electoral clout in the coming years. According to noted Brookings demographer William Frey, “by 2024, their vote will be essential to victory.” Third, this demographic shift is prodding both major political parties to increase their outreach and appeal to minority voters and to reassess the impact their policies are having on those communities. There is no doubt that the opportunity to re-elect America’s first Black president contributed to record Black turnout last year. But, no matter who is on the ballot in 2014 and 2016, we must continue to exercise our voice and Occupy the Vote.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League
- Created on 23 May 2013
One Hundred- and 80 years ago in his journey across America to report on “Democracy in America,” the great French writer Alexis de Tocqueville said: “There is hardly a political question in the United States that does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.” Today, we face a major judicial question in the history of our democratic republic. This question is rooted in whether or not every citizen of Michigan will be treated fairly, judged equally and allowed the political representation constitutionally guaranteed.
We are here today because we in the city of Detroit, along with 2.3 million Michigan voters still say no to the imposition, the forced acceptance, and the unfair application of one man given the authority to decide the fate of hundreds of thousands of Michigan citizens called an Emergency Manager.
Gov. Rick Snyder must be held accountable for this great tragedy which has negated Michigan and thus American democracy. His relentless non-positive action is causing a tremendous negative reaction on the part of those who live in the largest city in our state. While it is the City of Detroit today, stay tuned, it will be your city tomorrow.
We file a lawsuit today because we believe that the imposition of an Emergency Manager on the city of Detroit, and other largely populated African American cities around this state, has a disparate impact on voters of color, has a disparate impact on the City of Detroit, is against the home charters of our city and other municipalities, and gives one individual full powers and duties that have been given to duly elected officials with the consent and the will of its citizens. Today 50.4 percent or half of the state’s African American population is ruled by an unelected Emergency Manager.
We have, however, elected Mayors, City Council persons, County Commissioners and in some cases members of publically governed municipal boards. We further believe that the process of forcing an Emergency Manager on the people of Detroit was flawed and unfair. It was not applied equally in many locations that according to so-called “fiscal health scores” from 0-10 should also have the appointment of an Emergency Manager.
We question the ranking and significant meaning of “fiscal stress” as identified by the State Treasurer and its application in Detroit resulting in the appointment of an Emergency Manager.
This is not the same for Oakland County and its lack of appointment of an Emergency Manager in the cities of Hazel Park, with a population of 9.8 percent. African American, Pleasant Ridge, with a population of 1.9 percent African American, and Troy, with a population of 4.0 percent African American. Pontiac, with the population of 52.1 percent African American, was forced to accept the appointment of an overseer which some call an Emergency Manager. The same pattern of obvious political and economic discrimination has been used in the school districts of Detroit, Highland Park and Ecorse which also have significant African American populations. Van Buren Township with a population of 12.3 percent African American, and Harper Woods with a population of 45.6 percent African American had fiscal scores of 6, the same as Pontiac, but have no Emergency Manager.
We in the city of Detroit are entitled to equal protection with equal dignity owed to each voter according to the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. We further believe that the Emergency Manager appointment by Governor Rick Snyder, who is the real Emergency Manager, does not weigh each individual voter in each Michigan county the same.
This reminds us of what occurred in the state of Florida during which the Supreme Court determined that the voting electorate, regardless of county, must be weighed and treated the same. It is clear to us one cannot value one person vote in Detroit differently than that of another vote in the city of Grosse point, Grand Rapids, or Lansing, Michigan.
Part of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees “having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the state may not by later arbitrary and disparate treatment value one persons vote over that of another.. In other words, we are appalled that while other counties and cities have so called poor economic stress records they still have the power to elect their own mayors and city council persons who are charged with the direction of their municipalities. Even former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich during the Clinton administration, now Chancellor’s Professor of Public policy at the University of California at Berkley indicates, “the right to vote is the guiding principle of our democracy. A community that suffers financial hardship should be allowed to make the difficult decision that hardship necessitates, rather than be subject to unilateral dictate. Self-government does not end when creditors are displeased.”
The founders of this nation and our democracy did not form America simply on the basis of economic distress. It was formed according to the purveyors of history and based on political duress rooted in the reality that the people declared “no taxation without representation.” We seem to have forgotten history, disregarded democracy, and are stepping on the rights of Michigan citizens who are entitled to decide their own political destiny.
For those who believe that we can give up a little democracy today to have a few city services tomorrow, please remember that once you give it up it is most difficult to gain it back. We believe in partnerships, not a dictatorship. We want to work with the state. We do not want the state to work against us. This is not personally against Kevin Orr. This is against a flawed, unconstitutional and tyrannical process. The state of Michigan ought to be ashamed of itself. This is not worthy of our democracy. This is not worthy of Michigan. This is not what America fights for in trying to establish new democracies all over the world.
We call upon the Court to remember our Constitution and call those who are denying democracy to all of its citizens to stand down. Implore them to work with the people and not to deny or discriminate against the people. There are alternatives to this process. There are ways to generate revenues that have never been discussed for our city. There are models on how to aide cities in financial distress that have been ignored by the governor of this state and members of the State Legislature. You cannot have a Pure Michigan when you are constantly polluting the state with public policies that destroy the quality of life rather than enhance the quality of our living.
Henry David Thoreau once said, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” We call upon the Court to help the state use more wisdom and not to continue to do desperate things!
Rev. Wendell Anthony is president of the Detroit branch of the NAACP.