Tag Archives: hearing

Reaction as Democrats boycott committee vote on Pruitt nomination

Democrats today boycotted a Senate committee confirmation vote on President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Seats for the 10 Democrats on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee were empty when the Feb. 1 meeting on the nomination of Scott Pruitt was called to order.

Republican leaders complained the move was political theater, but progressive leaders cheered on the Democrats.

Reaction to the development…

Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said, “Today’s actions by Democrats to resist Scott Pruitt’s nomination were necessary and commendable. Pruitt is wholly unfit and unqualified to lead the EPA and anything done by anyone to prevent his confirmation must be welcomed and encouraged. Sadly, efforts by Senate Republicans to move Pruitt’s nomination forward confirm what we now know to be true: most Republicans hold an aggressive disdain for science, public health and common-sense environmental protection. Moving forward, any senator of either party that supports Pruitt’s nomination will be judged as anti-science, anti-health and anti-environment, and be held appropriately accountable by the people.”

350.org executive director May Boeve commented, “The resistance strikes back. With Pruitt refusing to answer the most basic questions about his fossil fuel industry connections, Democrats are right to protest. This is the sort of principled leadership that the public is demanding from their elected officials.”

Environment America executive director Margie Alt said, “Americans deserve an EPA administrator who will fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we love. Scott Pruitt fails on all these accounts. The Senate must stand with science. The Senate must stand up for our families’ health, clean water and clean air. The Senate must reject President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.”

Ben Carson’s qualifications to be housing chief questioned

While Ben Carson’s celebrated career as a neurosurgeon leaves no doubt about his medical credentials, his lack of experience in government and public policy are raising questions about his qualification to serve as housing secretary.

President-elect Donald Trump wants Carson, a former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a sprawling agency with 8,300 employees and a budget of about $48 billion.

Carson, in remarks prepared for his Jan. 12 hearing before the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee, talked about growing up in inner-city Detroit with a single mother who had a third-grade education. She worked numerous jobs to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

“I understand housing insecurity,” he said in the prepared testimony, and credited his mother with showing him the importance of perseverance and hard work.

Carson said he wants to help heal America’s divisiveness and that the department could play a role. “I see HUD as part of the solution, helping ensure housing security and strong communities,” he said.

Democrats in the GOP-run Senate are questioning his experience and priorities. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told Carson in a letter that the agency needs a strong, capable leader who believes in its mission.

“There is relatively little in the public record that reveals how you would further HUD’s mission to ‘create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all,’” Warren said.

Among the dozens of questions in the letter:

• What does Carson think about the condition of public housing?

• Should ending homelessness among veterans be a priority?

• How would he ensure equal access to HUD programs to same-sex couples and others?

Several former HUD secretaries, Democrats and Republicans, wrote the committee in support of Carson, saying they believe Carson will listen to staff to help fulfill HUD’s mission of affordable homes and inclusive communities.

The letter was signed by Henry Cisneros, secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Mel Martinez, Alphonso Jackson and Steven Preston, who worked for President George W. Bush.

Carson, the only black major-party candidate in 2016 presidential race, grew up poor. He attended Yale University and the University of Michigan Medical School, and was the first African-American named as head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore.

In 1987, at age 35, Carson pioneered surgery to separate twins joined at the back of the head. In 2013, he entered the national political spotlight when, during the National Prayer Breakfast, he railed against the modern welfare state. President Barack Obama was sitting just feet away.

Carson had said little publicly about affordable housing, homelessness and other HUD-related issues. Last summer, he criticized an Obama administration fair housing rule as government overreach.

Utah Congressman urged to cancel hearing on anti-LGBT bill

The American Civil Liberties Union and over 70 national, state and local groups sent a letter today to Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, urging him to cancel a hearing on a bill that would allow taxpayer-funded discrimination against LGBT people, women, and others.

Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has scheduled the hearing on the “First Amendment Defense Act” for July 12, the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“It’s outrageous that Congress would hold a hearing on legislation that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT people with taxpayer dollars one month after the mass shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay club in Orlando,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. “Congress should instead focus its efforts on protecting people against violence or discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.”

The bill’s supporters argue that the singular intent of the bill is to prevent discrimination against “people and institutions that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman.”

In practice, the ACLU said, the bill will permit sweeping taxpayer-funded discrimination. Based on a professed religious belief or even a legally ambiguous “moral conviction,” private organizations and certain federal contractors would be empowered to refuse a range of services to LGBT people, single mothers, and unmarried couples.

Public hearing set for Feb. 18 on Waukesha water diversion app

A regional public hearing will be held Feb. 18 as part of the city of Waukesha’s application to divert water from the Great Lakes.

The hearing provides an opportunity for Wisconsinites to share their opinions on the proposal with regional representatives from the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Regional Body and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Basin Compact Council. The regional body is composed of the eight Great Lakes governors and two Canadian premiers.

The hearing on the application also serves as the time and place for governors and premiers to ask questions and have them answered in a public forum, according to a news release from a coalition of environmental groups opposing Waukesha’s request.

The statement said, “This hearing is the first and only time citizens will have an opportunity to be heard directly by the decision-making body before the eight Great Lakes governors decide whether to support or veto the application.”

An informational meeting will be at 2 p.m. Feb. 18, followed by the hearing at 3 p.m. at Carroll University, Shattuck Music Center, 218 N. E. Ave., Room 122, Waukesha.

People who do not attend the hearing can file a comment with the secretariat of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council until March 14 at www.waukeshadiversion.org/comments.

When the public comment period closes, the regional body will meet — probably in late April — to decide whether to support the application. Only the eight Great Lakes governors are allowed to veto, but a significant level of deference will be given to any objection from the Canadian premiers. Silence is considered assent, but only one veto is required to deny the application.

The body may also approve the application with conditions attached.

On the record: Quotes from the Supreme Court hearing on marriage equality

Excerpts from arguments before the Supreme Court on April 28 about whether states must allow same-sex couples to marry and whether states must recognize gay marriages performed in other states:

Chief Justice John Roberts, on the institution of marriage: “You’re not seeking to join the institution, you’re seeking to change what the institution is. The fundamental core of the institution is the opposite-sex relationship and you want to introduce into it a same-sex relationship.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy: “The word that keeps coming back to me in this case is millennia, plus time. … This definition (of marriage) has been with us for millennia. And it’s very difficult for the court to say `Oh well, we know better.'”

Roberts, to the proponents of gay marriage: “If you prevail here, there will be no more debate. I mean, closing of debate can close minds, and it will have a consequence on how this new institution is accepted. People feel very differently about something if they have a chance to vote on it than if it’s imposed on them by the courts.”

Mary Bonauto, representing same-sex couples: “In terms of the question of who decides, it’s not about the court versus the states. It’s about the individual making the choice to marry and with whom to marry, or the government.”

Justice Samuel Alito, to supporters of gay marriage: “Suppose we rule in your favor in this case and then after that, a group consisting of two men and two women apply for a marriage license. Would there be any ground for denying them a license?”

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing the federal government: “Gay and lesbian people are equal. They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.”

Kennedy: “Same-sex couples say, of course, we understand the nobility and the sacredness of the marriage. We know we can’t procreate, but we want the other attributes of it in order to show that we, too, have a dignity that can be fulfilled.”

John Bursch, representing states that ban same-sex marriage: “If this court ensconces in the Constitution a new definition of marriage and it reduces the rate that opposite-sex couples stay together, bound to their children, because of that different understanding, even a 1 percent change … is many, many children.”

Justice Elena Kagan:

“It’s hard to see how permitting same-sex marriage discourages people from being bonded with their biological children.”

Roberts: “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

Roberts, on the question of forcing states that ban same-sex marriage to recognize those unions formed in other states:

“It’d simply be a matter of time until they would in effect be recognizing that within the state, because we live in a very mobile society and people move all the time. In other words, one state would basically set the policy for the entire nation.”

Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, representing same-sex couples: “These petitioners have built their lives around their marriages, including bringing children into their families, just as opposite-sex couples have done. But the non-recognition laws undermine the stability of these families, though the states purport to support such stability.”

Joseph Whalen, associate solicitor general for Tennessee: “Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and other states with a traditional definition of marriage have done nothing here but stand pat. They have maintained the status quo. And yet other states have made the decision, and it certainly is their right and prerogative to do so, to expand the definition, to redefine the definition, and then to suggest that other states that have done nothing but stand pat now must recognize those marriages imposes a substantial burden on the state’s ability to self-govern.”

Milwaukee police board will take up Manney appeal in March

A former Milwaukee police officer who is appealing his firing after he shot and killed an unarmed man in a park last year will have a trial before the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners in March.

Christopher Manney was fired in October, months after he shot Dontre Hamilton.

Manney, who is white, said he acted in self-defense when he shot Hamilton 14 times in April.

But police Chief Edward Flynn said Manney ignored department policy and treated Hamilton, who is black, like a criminal by frisking him. Hamilton’s family has said the man suffered from schizophrenia.

The police commissioners’ board says it initially set a trial date for Feb. 27, but both sides requested an adjournment. So the trial will now be held in March. A final date hasn’t been set.

Federal court hearing on Kansas marriage ban set for today

A federal judge is to hear a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging Kansas’ ban on same-sex marriage.

The hearing this afternoon (Oct. 31) before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree in Kansas City, Kansas, is on the ACLU’s request for an order to force Kansas to allow gay marriages.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit for two lesbian couples who were denied marriage licenses in Douglas and Sedgwick counties after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five other states seeking to preserve gay marriage bans.

The ACLU is seeking a temporary injunction to bring Kansas into line with 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals precedents in other cases.

Kansas voters in 2005 overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage.

Oral arguments in Wisconsin, Indiana marriage cases set for Aug. 26

UPDATED: The Aug. 13 hearing set for the oral argument in the Wisconsin marriage equality case was canceled.

The new hearing date is Aug. 26.

A notice from the court on July 25 said, “It is ordered that this case be orally argued on Tuesday, August 26 … in the Main Courtroom, Room 2721 of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, 219 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, Illinois, at 9:30 a.m.”

The notice limited each party to 20 minutes.

Represented by the ACLU, same-sex couples challenging Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriages had objected to the state’s request that the full 7th Circuit Court of Appeals hear arguments in the case. The ACLU said that would delay the appeal and put a burden on the court without any benefit.

The court has now denied Wisconsin’s petition for an initial hearing en banc, as well as denied the petition for a hearing by the full panel of the court that came from Indiana. The notice from the court, also released on July 25, said a majority of the judges in regular service had voted to deny an initial hearing en banc. 

Federal judges have struck down bans in both Wisconsin and Indiana. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals consolidated the cases. Oral argument had been scheduled for Aug. 13, but the court has canceled that session and rescheduled the arguments for Aug. 26.

Online …

Follow U.S. marriage equality developments on Twitter @eqcf on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EqualityCaseFiles.

Judge to hear Florida marriage equality case July 2

A lawsuit seeking the freedom to marry in Florida will be heard on July 2 in Miami.

Judge Sarah Zabel in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court will hear the case involving Equality Florida Institute and six same-sex couples. The state bars same-sex couples from marrying and refuses to recognize gay marriages from other states.

More than 70 lawsuits are pending in state and federal courts in more than 30 states and U.S. territories. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the ban on same-sex marriage for federal purposes, there have been 19 consecutive victories for marriage equality. The most recent wins were in Oregon and Pennsylvania just this week.

Equality Florida Institute CEO Nadine Smith said, “Throughout the nation, courts have ruled that these harmful laws are outdated and out of step, and we believe that equality and justice will prevail in Florida, as well.”

The couples involved in the lawsuit are Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello, Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price, Vanessa and Melanie Alenier, Todd and Jeff Delmay, Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber and Don Price Johnston and Jorge Isaias Diaz.

The lawsuit was brought by the law firm Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, Elizabeth F. Schwartz, Mary B. Meeks and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

Fall showdown in court on Mich. gay marriage ban

A federal judge will hear arguments Oct. 1 on the legality of Michigan’s ban on gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Judge Bernard Friedman set the date this week in what could be a ground-breaking lawsuit filed by two Detroit-area nurses who are lesbians.

Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer and three adopted children live under one roof in Hazel Park. But Michigan law bars the women from jointly adopting each other’s kids.

At the judge’s suggestion, the lawsuit was expanded last year to also challenge a 2004 constitutional amendment that recognizes marriage in Michigan as only between a man and a woman. Rowse and DeBoer say the amendment and the adoption law violate their rights.

Friedman recently turned down the state’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.