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Gay prideOne of the most amazing developments in recent public policy debates has been the emergence of so much common ground between so-called Christian conservatives and the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Who would have guessed that just a few decades after Ronald Reagan sought to confront the leaders in the Kremlin over what he called their “evil empire,” that his and their successors would find so much to share?

There’s the mutual devotion to unfettered plutocratic capitalism, the shared belief that environmentalists should be generally ignored, the common desire to link church and state and, perhaps most famously of late, the fact that both parties are willing to do whatever it takes to marginalize and discriminate against the LGBT community.

This strange mutual admiration society has arguably reached new heights in recent weeks with the largely successful Sochi Olympic games in which Putin emerged stronger than ever and the rise of a new wave of Putinist anti-gay proposals in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Happily, however, the whole bizarre and disturbing union suffered a big setback yesterday when Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona bowed to widespread national pressure (the owners of the NFL, for instance, made it clear they’d take back the 2015 Super Bowl from Phoenix if she signed it) and vetoed a proposal that would have permitted discrimination against gays in the name of “religious freedom.”

Let’s hope this is the beginning of the end for American Putinism, but given the Russian leader’s relative youth and vast fossil fuels-based wealth (and the passion that so many misguided Americans still bring to the cause of social reaction), we’re probably not out of the woods yet.

Blue CrossWe’ve often given Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina a hard time down through the years here at The Pulse, but today the insurance giant deserves credit for admitting it screwed up and taking action to correct its recent error of cancelling polices of same-sex couples.

According to BCBSNC boss Brad Wilson: “We should have more thoughtfully considered this decision, with full appreciation of the impact it would have on same-sex married couples and domestic partners. We’re sorry we failed to do so.”

Good for Wilson and BCBSNC. You can read the company’s entire statement by clicking here.

Frank Bruni of the New York Times has authored an uplifting article about a candidate for student body president at UNC Chapel Hill that’s worth your time this morning (full disclosure: my daughter is helping to support his campaign):

“The campaign for student body president at the University of North Carolina here has just begun, and there’s nothing unusual in the number of candidates — five — or the fact that two are Morehead-Cain scholars, an elite designation.

But there’s a wrinkle that’s certain to generate discussion, especially in a state whose politics have taken a profoundly rightward turn. One of the candidates is an undocumented immigrant who readily identifies himself that way. In fact he’s at or near the head of the pack.

His name is Emilio Vicente. He’s a junior, 22, and a minority three times over: Latino, undocumented and gay. He came to the United States from Guatemala at 6, his mother leading him under barbed wire and into Arizona, as he recalls it. (He remembers the screech of a woman with them whose hair got caught.) And he flourished here, his grades earning him the private scholarship he needed for Chapel Hill, where he’s on this committee, that board, a one-man whirlwind of engagement.

Read the rest of the piece by clicking here. Read more about Vicente’s campaign by clicking here.

Virginia’s attorney general has become the latest to conclude that his state’s ban on marriage equality is unconstitutional. As WRAL.com reports:

“Following a seismic political shift in Virginia’s top elected offices, the new attorney general has concluded that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and he will no longer defend it in federal lawsuits, his office said Thursday.

Virginia, widely considered a battleground state in the nationwide fight to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, will instead side with the plaintiffs who are seeking to have the ban struck down, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Herring said in an email to The Associated Press.

‘After a thorough legal review of the matter, Attorney General Herring has concluded that Virginia’s current ban is in violation of the U.S. constitution and he will not defend it,’ spokesman Michael Kelly wrote.”

This new decision is just the latest in what NC Policy Watch contributor Dr. Charles Beem described a few weeks ago as an inevitable procession of dominoes in this area. It’s now becoming a matter of “when” rather than “what” on the marriage equality question.

 

As 2013 fast recedes in the rear-view mirror, many of us would like to think that the worst of the Koch brothers/Tea Party/conservative theocracy wackiness is over. Unfortunately, there is ample reason to believe that 2014 will be even more of a knockdown, drag-out political battle. Here are just a few reminders as to why this is the case and why caring and thoughtful people will need to bring their “A games” in the coming year to push back  successfully:

Big, dark money - Dan Besse, editor of the excellent N.C. League of Conservation Voters blog, provides a link this morning to a story in Scientific American from over the holidays that highlights a new Drexel University study about who funds the climate change-denial movement. Surprise! The bucks aren’t coming from the grassroots.

Asheville: facing abolition? As was reported several times in 2013, one of the General Assembly’s most conservative ideologues, Rep. Tim Moffitt of Buncombe County, has been waging a nonstop war with the city of Asheville for some time — whether it’s taking away the city’s water system or its airport. Now, comes word from Asheville Citizen-Times columnist John Boyle that Moffitt may want to go a lot further.

Standing fast in favor of discrimination – Another discouraging story from over the holidays came from the North Carolina Family Policy Council, which is doubling-down in support of discrimination against LGBT kids and families. Read More