View from the left—Hope after Houston, how LGBT activists can turn defeat into victory

Ikeita Cantu holds a sign supporting same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court before the court hears arguments about gay marriage in Washington April 28, 2015. The nine justices of the Supreme Court began on Tuesday to hear arguments on whether the

We have been here before. The loss on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) Tuesday night was a déjà vu moment for LGBT Americans nationwide. We watched an eerily similar scenario unfold in California on election night in 2008 as a group of committed anti-gay activists pushed through Proposition 8, a measure that took away same-sex marriage rights that had already been granted by the state’s Supreme Court.
But it’s not over in Houston, just like it wasn’t over after Proposition 8. In fact, Prop 8 was just the beginning of a stretch that saw more gains for LGBT equality at the federal level than in the entire century preceding it.

As I wrote in my recently released book, which chronicles the activism that swept the nation after Prop 8: “A sleeping giant had been poked one too many times … Denying gays basic human rights wasn’t acceptable to a

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If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And if it is broke, don’t fix it.

Earlier this week, the Associated Press published the results of its yearlong study of cops involved in sexual misconduct. They pored over 9,000 cases of police officer decertification from a five-year period and of those, 1,000 were kicked off the force for unlawful sex-related incidents. Some incidents were lawful but against policy, such as consensual sex while on-duty.
A study of this magnitude undoubtedly brings up many questions, most notably: how could this happen? The answer: the system is broken.

To quote directly from the article, “Resigning or being fired does not mean an officer loses the ability to work in law enforcement.” That’s where decertification comes in. But there is no unified, national process for decertifying police officers. A national index of police officers who have lost their law enforcement licenses does exist, but it only contains 20,000 names. Also, only 39 of the 50 United States

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Victim of California Highway Patrol officer’s wrath still awaiting justice

(former) California Highway Patrol officer Daniel Andrew

It was a typical summer day in July 2014, but what happened on the side of the Interstate 10 freeway in Los Angeles was anything but. The image was—and still is—horrifying: A California Highway Patrol officer, straddling and repeatedly punching a defenseless woman lying on the ground, as if he was in a mixed-martial arts match.  
Daniel Andrew, the former officer in question, initially said he was attempting to prevent Marlene Pinnock from hurting herself as she walked along the freeway. He was attempting to “protect and serve,” according to his report, when Pinnock resisted him and became physically combative. He had no choice but to physically restrain her. For her own good, he insisted.

Yeah. The CHP didn’t buy that either, in the end. After initially covering for him, once the CHP’s internal investigation was finished the agency settled with Pinnock for $1.5 million. As part

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San Francisco County sued for incarcerating poor people that can’t afford bail

Jail cell

A new class-action lawsuit could stop the incarceration of tens of thousands of people in California jails. Non-profit group Equal Justice Under Law has filed a lawsuit claiming that judges are setting unreasonably high bails in San Francisco County, resulting in jail sentences for those who can’t afford to pay.
For the poor a jail sentence can be especially catastrophic, resulting in loss of wages or loss of employment, plus additional unexpected costs such as childcare that they simply can’t afford. As a result, some poor defendants end up depending on the bail bond industry for payment. Think Progress reports:

Crystal Patterson, 29, faced a $150,000 bail for her charges under the automated bail schedule the county uses. Desperate to be released because she is the sole caretaker for an elderly relative, but barely scraping by on a $12.50 hourly wage of her own, Patterson turned to the

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Hate wins: Houston equal rights measure defeated after failure to communicate

The nation’s first referendum on LGBT rights following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage went down to defeat Tuesday night in Houston, the fourth largest city in the country. It failed by a wide margin, 61 percent to 39 percent.
Much will be written about this loss for equality in the days to come, but here’s a big piece of political malpractice, as noted by Mike Signorile.

Political strategists warned LGBT activists in the days ahead of the vote: There was little Spanish-language outreach, no big ad buy in Spanish-language media — in a city that is 44% Hispanic — countering the lies of the opposition, who’d certainly been doing their own outreach. Monica Roberts, a long-time African-American transgender activist, warned of little outreach in the black community, which makes up 24% of the city.

That lack of outreach was already evident in pre-vote polling released in early

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World Congress of Families attendee explains how U.S.-based groups spread homophobia in Africa

Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-TX) Republican presidential candidate, speaks on behalf of his son at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 22, 2015.   REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX1E6ZH

Pastor Rafael Cruz, father of Sen. Ted Cruz

When Pastor Rafael Cruz (father of GOP presidential contender and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz) was quoted last week saying that the “next thing” on the LGBT agenda is “to try to legalize pedophiles,” he was attending a little-known conference called the World Congress of Families, held in Salt Lake City this year. The global gathering of pro-life, virulently anti-gay organizations includes U.S.-based groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, but it is usually held outside the U.S., often in places where homophobia is alive and well and people are hungry for the message. In fact, since the mid-1990s, WCF has been providing U.S.-based groups that are losing the battle against LGBT rights at home the opportunity to take their fight abroad.
“The World Congress of Families acts as a networking operation,” explains

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Supreme Court hears case on racial discrimination in jury selection

SCOTUS brief, uploaded by Southern center for human rights, permission given by SCHR

Prosecutor’s notes on potential jurors in Foster’s case. Note where black candidates are highlighted in green with the “B” notation.  

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Foster v. Chatman, a case involving the exclusion of black citizens from juries in a death penalty case. The case comes almost thirty years after Batson v. Kentucky, where the Supreme Court prohibited striking a juror based on race.
At issue in this case is the 1987 trial of Timothy Foster, an 18-year-old poor, black, developmentally delayed man accused of murdering an 80-year-old white woman. Yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments were specifically focused on the jury selection process in Foster’s case, where the prosecution struck 100 percent of the black jurors.

At the time, the total exclusion of black jurors was challenged by Foster’s lawyers as a violation of Batson, but prosecutors presented reasoning for each juror strike. It

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Two Kentucky jailers indicted in federal civil rights charges in the killing of a detainee

Damon Hickman and Larry Trent, Kentucky jailers accused of beating an inmate to death.

Here’s another incident of police violence to watch.
Today, the Department of Justice announced that Damon Hickman and William Howell, two jailers at the Kentucky River Regional Jail in Hazard, Kentucky, are being indicted on civil rights charges stemming from the 2013 death of Larry Trent. The indictment charges Hickman and Howell with using unnecessary force in the altercation with and beating of Kent. They are both charged with subsequently falsifying records to deny Kent critical medical services after the beating, which allegedly led to his death. According to the DOJ:

The indictment charges Damon Hickman, 38, and William Howell, 59, with causing Trent’s death, and charges Hickman with attempting to cover up his involvement in the death.
Hickman and Howell are charged with federal civil rights violations for depriving Trent of his civil rights. Count one of the indictment charges Hickman and Howell of failing to provide Trent

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Police sexual misconduct: Just how big of a problem is it?

Pretty big. That’s how big.
Over the weekend the Associated Press published the results of a year-long investigation into sexual misconduct by law enforcement in the U.S. The investigation found that about 1,000 officers from 41 states across the country were booted from police forces due to sex-related conduct over a five-year period, from 2009 to 2014. That number comes from a total of about 9,000 records that the AP combed through.

The AP investigation’s results were released just in time for the start of the trial of one of their subjects, Daniel Holtzclaw. His trial begins today in Oklahoma with jury selection. The former Oklahoma City police officer faces 36 counts of sexual assault and other crimes against 13 women.

The report is obviously troubling for a number of reasons. One—and only one—is that the total number of officers that engage in such behavior isn’t truly known. Some

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Houston’s vote on an LGBT equal rights measure a nail-biter as the right obsesses over bathroom use

Houston’s right-wing nut jobs have dubbed the LGBT nondiscrimination measure, which goes to vote Tuesday, “the bathroom ordinance.” They are obsessed with which bathrooms people use and have been making completely fabricated claims that the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) will allow “any man at any time” to use a women’s restroom.
But what’s even worse than the right’s incendiary claims is the fact that their scare tactics might actually defeat a measure that’s designed to provide nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as race, sex, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, and other characteristics. Sandhya Somashekhar reports:

Robert M. Stein, a pollster and political science professor at Rice University, said his latest poll, which wrapped up in early October, shows the measure passing by six percentage points. But the political winds have shifted since then, Stein said, and now he

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Police unions gang up on Quentin Tarantino

Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch is pictured following the funeral of slain NYPD officer Rafael Ramos in the Brooklyn borough of New York December 27, 2014. Picture taken December 27, 2014.  A majority of New York City residents are c

The New Jersey State Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) is the latest police union to join a boycott of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino called for by their New York “brothers in blue.”  Patrick Lynch, president of the New York police officers’ union, described Tarantino as a “cop hater” and called for New Yorkers to send the director “a message.” Tarantino spoke at an anti-police brutality rally in the city last Saturday, saying that he was on the side of those victimized by police.
PBA President Pat Collegian said, “Mr. Tarantino should be mindful of the potential dangers that can result from the dangerous rhetoric once it is ingrained in the mind of a person who is willing to harm an officer.”

The New Jersey organization joins unions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in both the boycott and the hyperbole against the director. Philadelphia’s union head John McNesby also

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How Jeb! pushed Florida’s quiet war on black voters

Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor in Maryland February 27, 2015.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR4RHAO

Jeb! Bush made the most of Florida’s arcane voter laws while he was governor to help disenfranchise black voters in the state, as documented by a new Mother Jones article titled, “How Jeb Bush perpetuated the Sunshine State’s war on black voters.”
The story opens on James Ghent, a black Miami resident who turned his life around in the early ’90s after spending much of the ’80s in and out of jail. “He got clean. He remarried and raised a family. He went back to school for a degree in radiography,” writes Pema Levy. But Florida is one of three states in which felons permanently lose their voting rights, even after serving their time. The only way to get one’s right to vote back is to petition the governor and his or her cabinet in person.

These hearings, held four times annually, begin promptly at 9 a.m. One

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How Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty is ensuring that Tamir Rice’s killer won’t go to trial

The last photo of Tamir Rice, taken just weeks before he was shot and killed by Cleveland Police

Daily reminder: Grand juries for officer-involved shootings are bullshit.
In the wake of controversial decisions by prosecutors in Richmond County, New York, and St. Louis County, Missouri, to protect the police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown, respectively, with grand jury proceedings, activists and legal experts are rightly calling foul in Cleveland. On October 10, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty took the grand jury scheme a step further, authorizing the release of two independent reports that argued that officer Timothy Loehmann acted reasonably in killing 12-year-old Tamir Rice. These public reports came well in advance of the grand jury, and according to some experts may unfairly color the proceedings in Loehmann’s favor. You think? According to Mother Jones:

[T]he reports have sparked outrage from Rice’s family and supporters, who say the grand jury investigation amounts to “a charade aimed at whitewashing” and are demanding that a special

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Amonderez Green dies of injuries sustained in officer-involved shooting

Another day, yet another tragedy involving police officers and a mentally ill person. This time in the St. Louis suburb of Normandy, Amonderez Green died early on the morning of October 29 from injuries sustained in an October 28 shootout with Normandy police. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Normandy police officers were called to the 5800 block of Bermuda Drive about 2 p.m. for a report of a suicidal man, Normandy police Cpl. Tameika Sanders said at a press conference Wednesday night. The area is near the Normandy-Ferguson city line.
The man, now identified as Green, was being followed by family members who were “seeking police and medical intervention,” Normandy police said in a press release.

Like all too many interactions between black individuals—especially those who are mentally ill—this one ended in death. Normandy police report that Green was uncooperative and unresponsive to attempts to speak to

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What ‘driving while black’ really means for black Americans in two charts

Police take a mug shot of a protester who was detained in Ferguson, Missouri, August 10, 2015.  Protesters regrouped in Ferguson, Missouri, on Monday evening after a state of emergency was declared, aimed at preventing a repeat of violence the night befor

The fact that black Americans are more routinely pulled over for minor and even bogus traffic violations than white Americans is something people of color have lived with for years despite efforts to discount it. Now the New York Times has a long and damning piece out titled “The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black” that was the result of combing through tens of thousands of traffic stops and arrest data over a period of years. Here was one finding from its examination of stops in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Officers pulled over African-American drivers for traffic violations at a rate far out of proportion with their share of the local driving population. They used their discretion to search black drivers or their cars more than twice as often as white motorists — even though they found drugs and weapons significantly more often when the driver was white.
Officers were more

Two charts showing that in 14 cities, blacks were disproportionately searched during traffic stops even though police were more likely to find contraband while searching the cars of whites

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I’m writing about prosecutors and I need your help.

As many of you know, my writing at Daily Kos focuses primarily on prosecutors: Instances of prosecutorial misconduct, examples of outsized prosecutorial power, and district attorney elections. I’m also looking at judicial misconduct and elections, and notable behavior by other courtroom actors.

I’m writing today because I need your help.

I’m going to need backup in order to ensure that I’m getting all the stories on all the thousands of prosecutors out there. That’s where you come in.

Please, if you see (or hear, or read) something—say something.

I want to know what’s happening in your city or county. I want to hear about the bad prosecutors, and I want to hear about the good. That goes for judges, too. I want to know what you’ve seen or heard.

I want to hear about the issues. I want to hear about privatized and for-profit criminal justice. Do you have news

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Being Hispanic is sufficient probable cause, says Kentucky prosecutor

Empty courtroom.

A prosecutor in Oldham County, Kentucky seems to think that being Hispanic is sufficient probable cause for being pulled over. ThinkProgress reports:

Last July, Mauro Martinez was pulled over for speeding but he was not charged. Instead, he was cited for not having a license because he only had a Guatemalan ID at the time. During a court hearing about the citation, Assistant County Attorney Travis Combs pointed out that the defendant’s issue was that he was pulled over for being Hispanic. In a video recording of the hearing, prosecuting attorney John K. Carter says “that’s probable cause.”

Carter made that statement last week in open court.  
Now Carter is claiming that he was referencing Martinez’s driving speed, but the video indicates that neither the judge nor Martinez’s attorney, Dawn Elliot, interpreted his comments that way. Carter didn’t clear up his statements until after the video was released.

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Cartoon: Voter suppression funnies

(Click to enlarge)

So, Alabama is shuttering drivers license offices in every county in which African-Americans comprise 75% or more of voters, and Kansas has an anti-immigrant zealot as its Secretary of State, who is purging some 36,000 names from a list of citizens who tried to register to vote but could not complete the process (sometimes unknowingly) because they didn’t have a birth certificate handy. This is all supposedly in the name of preventing “voter fraud” — an event so rare as to be statistically nonexistent — while perpetrating the outlandish fraud of disenfranchising tens of thousands of voters.

And much of America snoozes while all this is happening.

(PS: Just saw that the Governor of Alabama has responded to the outcry by offering to open those offices one day a month. This announcement came a day before Hillary Clinton’s visit to Alabama.)

Follow Jen on Twitter

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St. Louis DA McCulloch allegedly had former ACLU lawyer illegally removed from grand jury

St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch announces the grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August 9 shooting death on Michael Brown at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri, November 24, 2

A recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Missouri alleges that St. Louis District Attorney Bob McCulloch illegally tampered with a grand jury.
McCulloch made headlines last year when he failed to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown. Recently, he was named Missouri’s Prosecutor of the Year.

Now, it looks like he may have flagrantly broken the law.

According to the Washington Post, the ACLU has filed a petition against St. Louis County Judge Steven Goldman “for his decision to remove a former ACLU staff attorney from a grand jury.” McCulloch is accused of secretly meeting with Judge Goldman late last month to request that the grand juror be removed:

The former attorney…was empaneled as the grand jury’s foreman in September and had already overseen two sessions, on September 16 and September 23. According to the filing, Judge Goldman called the foreman into

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Police union head calls for boycotting local pumpkin patch over a #BlackLivesMatter sign

Demonstrators protest outside of the Baltimore Police Department's Western District police station during a rally for Freddie Gray, in Baltimore, April 21, 2015. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in Baltimore on Tuesday to protest the death of the 27-yea

If you find this a controversial statement, you’re doing something wrong.

This story is just straight-up depressing.

The head of a Fairfax County police union called for a boycott of a popular pumpkin patch because a “Black Lives Matter” sign was displayed in the window of a home nearby. […]
In the initial [Facebook] message, Carruthers posted a photo of the sign and wrote that displaying it was a “slap in the face” to the Fairfax County police.

“When Black Lives Matter emerged, it was a small group trying to do the right thing,” Carruthers said in an interview. “The fact of the matter is it seemed like that movement got hijacked toward anti-police sentiments.”

The post has since been deleted, but this premise that the Black Lives Matter movement is “anti-police,” as opposed to a civil rights movement that doesn’t want unarmed black Americans getting shot, is

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