Tag Archives: march on washington

Amid unprecedented legal momentum for same-sex marriage, Wisconsin couples remain in limbo

As gay couples in Wisconsin waited in legal limbo in mid-June, equality foes continued working to defend anti-gay amendments in the courts and marched on Washington.

But those foes are caught in a losing streak. The march on Washington on June 19 fell flat, and there have been 21 consecutive court rulings for marriage equality since last summer, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a key provision in the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

On June 25, a federal judge struck down Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional. The court clerk in Marion County, home to Indianapolis, began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couple about an hour after the decision was announced.

On the same day, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a lower-court ruling that found Utah’s prohibition of same-sex marriage unconsitutional. The 3-2 ruling affects all states in the 10th Circuit: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

But the appeals court immediately put a stay on marriages in those states pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  

Just weeks before the June 25 rulings,  U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb on June 6 found that Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment barring gay couples from marrying violates the 14th Amendment’s Due Process and Equal Protection clauses. Crabb didn’t issue a stay — requested before her ruling by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen — until June 13. So for six days in early June, same-sex couples applied for and obtained marriage licenses in 60 of the state’s 72 counties. At least 550 gay couples were married in Wisconsin.

While the case is pending appeal with the 7th Circuit in Chicago, there’s uncertainty: For those with licenses who didn’t marry, should they wed? For those caught in the five-day waiting period, can they marry in another state? For those who married, what benefits, responsibilities or protections do they have?

“I think the harder questions are like adoptions, the really hard issues,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. That’s why these stays are so gut-wrenching for people.”

On June 16, Wisconsin’s congressional Democrats asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm, as he has done in similar situations in Utah and Michigan, that the federal government will recognize the marriages of Wisconsin gay couples and guarantee them:

• The ability to sponsor a foreign spouse for legal residency.

• Health, workers’ compensation, retirement and other benefits for the spouse of a federal employee.

• Health benefits, spousal ID cards, housing allowances and on-base support services for the spouse of a military servicemember.

• Joint income tax filings, as well as spousal exemptions of gifts, inheritances and the value of employer-provided spousal health coverage.

• Unpaid family and medical leave to care for an ill spouse.

• Spousal Social Security benefits.

“Earlier this year, you made clear that couples who married in Utah and Michigan after federal judges struck down those states’ bans are entitled to full federal recognition,” the lawmakers wrote. “We are grateful for this tremendous leadership on behalf of fairness and equality. We ask that you similarly declare that those same-sex couples who married in Wisconsin since the June 6 decision are equally entitled to the federal benefits they deserve.”

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin, which filed the equality case on behalf of eight same-sex couples, was assessing the situation — preparing for the appeal and looking into whether additional lawsuits should be filed on behalf of couples left in limbo.

In addition to the June 25 rulings, another marriage equality case was set for June 26 in Louisiana and a hearing was set for July 2 in a Florida case.

And the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear five cases from four states — Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee — in a single session in Cincinnati on Aug. 6.

The Cincinnati court is the third federal appeals court to weigh recent challenges to state bans. The 4th Circuit in Virginia heard arguments in another case in May. 

Any one of them, or all, could reach the U.S. Supreme Court and bring a conclusive ruling on marriage equality.

‘A hateful handful’

Leaders on the equality side fully expect the nine-member Court to eventually overturn the amendments and anti-gay marriage laws.

And so do many leaders in conservative circles — from Newt Gingrich, who was House speaker when DOMA was enacted, to seven-term U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. In May, Hatch told a radio interviewer, “Let’s face it: Anybody who does not believe that gay marriage is going to be the law of the land just hasn’t been observing what’s going on.”

Yet groups such as the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council pledge to fight on for years against gay marriage the way the anti-choice movement has fought Roe v. Wade.

NOM promoted the June 19 march as a “road to victory.”

Co-sponsors of the event included FRC, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Washington Times newspaper, the Alliance Defending Freedom, Concerned Women for America and the Heritage Foundation.

Speakers included what the Human Rights Campaign described as a “parade of horribles” — former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Catholic Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, NOM president Brian Brown, Capital Tea Party Patriots co-founder Doug Mainwaring, a gay man who says gay marriage is “objective evil,” and ADF counsel Austin Nimocks.

NOM also brought to the microphone Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., who has compared gay marriage to a satanic plot; Dr. Him Garlow, who has said gay marriage will lead to enslavement of those opposed to the unions; Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan Anderson, who has compared gays and lesbians to pedophiles; and the Rev. Bill Owens Sr., who has likened gay marriage to bestiality. 

Brown, in a statement to supporters before the march, claimed the Supreme Court “will be watching.”

He also said, “A competition is won by those who take the field, not by those who sit on the sidelines. Friends, we need to take the field for marriage — and fight to win.”

NOM’s critics, however, maintain the organization is now faking a movement — national polls show that strong opposition to marriage equality has dropped to 28 percent and only 40 percent of opponents of marriage equality would pay anything to stop its progress.

The march proponents “are the proud leaders of a hateful handful, the last gasp of a reactionary rump,” said HRC’s Fred Sainz.

Call to action: KXL opponents to march on Washington April 27

A coalition of tribal communities, ranchers, farmers, Canadian First Nations, environmental groups and communities along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route announced the Reject and Protect action in Washington, D.C.

The action will begin with a the arrival of activists on horseback on April 22, which is Earth Day, and it will culminate with a march on April 27.

An announcement of the event from the Cowboy and Indian Alliance — a group of tribal communities, farmers and ranchers united to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline — was in a letter organizers sent to hundreds of thousands of activists.

The Reject and Protect campaign is endorsed by a number of groups, whose leaders issued statements of support. They include:

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader among the Dakota, Lakota, Nakota people: “Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of mankind.  Do you think that the creator would create unnecessary people in a time of danger? Know that you are essential to this world. The biggest cancer spreading upon Mother Earth is the tar sands.”

Tom Genung, Nebraska Landowner: “As a land owner and a pipeline fighter, it is an honor and privilege to stand together with tribal brothers and sisters. It is our duty to protect the sacred for the seven generations to come. We stand together as one people working together to help President Obama take measures for clean environmental decisions which includes denial of TransCanada’s permit which has no legal route in our great state of Nebraska.”

Chief Reuben George, Tsleil-Waututh: “One thing I can say right off the bat is that we are winning. When we come together like this, we become stronger. There is no price for our water and lands.  The lessons we receive from Mother Earth is to become better human beings.  We give back to the earth and the land.  The pipelines do not do that.  We are going to win!”

Hilton Kelley, founder and director of Community In-Power and Development Association: “The people living on the Gulf of Mexico in the City of Port Arthur, TX and Houston, TX are disproportionately impacted by refinery and chemical plant emissions. A large number of our residents at this present time are suffering from respiratory issues, cancer and liver and kidney disease, If the tar sands material is piped into our community for refining at the neighboring plants, there will be a serious increase in the emission levels into the very air we breathe. Our state government has not been much help in supporting our efforts to reduce the toxins in our air; we most certainly hope that we can depend on our federal Government to protect those in the low income and people of color communities as well as all others.”

Bill McKibben, 350.org founder: “It was native people and Nebraska ranchers that really started this battle, and so it’s so fitting that they’re the ones leading this last appeal to the president to do the right thing. We’ve gone wrong in this country before when we didn’t listen to its original inhabitants; let’s hope Keystone becomes the opportunity to show we’re wising up.”

Faith Spotted Eagle, Yankton Sioux: “We are writing a new history by standing on common ground by preventing the black snake of Keystone XL from risking our land and water. We have thousands of Native sacred sites that will be affected adversely. The Americans facing eminent domain now know what it felt like for us to lose land to a foreign country.  There is no fairness or rationale to justify the risk of polluting our waterways with benzene and other carcinogens. Native people are ready to speak for the four-leggeds and the grandchildren who cannot speak for themselves. The answer is no pipeline.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club executive director: “The April 27 ’Reject and Protect’ march will focus on the communities on the front line of the Keystone XL tar sands fight. Dirty tar sands threaten our climate, and they threaten the health and well-being of the people who live along the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route. For these families, nothing short of their water, land, and their children’s safety is at stake.  The Sierra Club is proud to stand with these communities and call on President Obama to reject dirty and dangerous tar sands once and for all.”

Roger Milk, Rosebud Sioux: “This just isn’t an Indian thing. We all drink the same water.”

Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska executive director: “Tribal and ranching communities protect our neighbors first and foremost. That is at our core. We will bring our pipeline fighting spirit to Washington, DC in order for President Obama to see our faces so he knows he is not making a decision about a line on a map, he is making a decision about our families and our neighbors. The President said he wants to be able to look at his daughters and say ‘yes he did’ do everything he could to combat climate change. We intend to ensure he honors his word.”

Gary Dorr, Nez Perce, Shielding the People media coordinator: “We will Stand the Line.”

Maura Cowley, Energy Action Coalition executive director: “Indigenous communities and ranchers are fighting to stop Keystone XL as a matter of survival, and it’s time that we and President Obama stand with them to stop this dirty and destructive project from ruining their land and water. For too long indigenous communities have encouraged us to look out for future generations and our country has ignored them. This must end with the Keystone decision, nothing short of our future is at stake.”

Becky Bond, CREDO political director: “People literally living on the frontlines of our fight against Keystone XL will be taking their case directly to the president in April. We stand in solidarity with the ranchers and tribes whose lands and waters face imminent danger from the imposition of a dirty pipeline by a foreign oil company. And CREDO joins over 86,000 people who are willing to risk arrest if necessary to back up that solidarity with action.”

On Twitter: #NOKXL

Remarks by President Barack Obama at the March on Washington

President Barack Obama addressed the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington — the Let Freedom Ring Ceremony — on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at about 3 p.m. EST on Aug. 28. The following is the transcript of those remarks, provided by the White House.

President Obama:

To the King family, who have sacrificed and inspired so much; to President Clinton; President Carter; Vice President Biden and Jill; fellow Americans.  

Five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding:  “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.”

In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise — those truths — remained unmet.  And so they came by the thousands from every corner of our country, men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others.

Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer.  In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well.  With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn’t always sit where they wanted to sit.  Those with less money hitchhiked or walked.  They were seamstresses and steelworkers, students and teachers, maids and Pullman porters.  They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors.  And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the Great Emancipator — to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress, and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike.  His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV.  Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters.  They lived in towns where they couldn’t vote and cities where their votes didn’t matter.  They were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home.  They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path.  In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors.  In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence.  Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs.  A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us.  They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught — that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day.  That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought to that day.  That was the spirit that they carried with them, like a torch, back to their cities and their neighborhoods.  That steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come — through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches far from the spotlight; through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, and the carnage of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the agony of Dallas and California and Memphis.  Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt,that flame of justice flickered; it never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed.  Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed.  Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed.  Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. (Applause.)  Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually, the White House changed.  (Applause.)  

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair — not just for African Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans; for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims; for gays, for Americans with a disability.  America changed for you and for me.  and the entire world drew strength from that example, whether the young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid.  (Applause.)

Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts.  That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes.  That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn’t have; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Applause.)

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress — to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed — that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years.  (Applause.)  Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. — they did not die in vain.  (Applause.)  Their victory was great. 

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.  The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.  To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.  Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance.  (Applause.) 

And we’ll suffer the occasional setback.  But we will win these fights.  This country has changed too much.  (Applause.)  People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.  (Applause.)  

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination — the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the March.  For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal.  They were there seeking jobs as well as justice — (applause) — not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity.  (Applause.)

For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?  This idea — that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood; that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security — this idea was not new.  Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms — as a promise that in due time, “the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”  

And Dr. King explained that the goals of African Americans were identical to working people of all races:  “Decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.”

What King was describing has been the dream of every American.  It’s what’s lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores.  And it’s along this second dimension — of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one’s station in life — where the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short. 

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half century ago.  But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white unemployment, Latino unemployment close behind.  The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it’s grown.  And as President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive. 

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes.  Inequality has steadily risen over the decades.  Upward mobility has become harder.  In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence. 

     And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires.  It was whether this country would admit all people who are willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of a middle-class life.  (Applause.)

The test was not, and never has been, whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few.  It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many — for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran.  To win that battle, to answer that call — this remains our great unfinished business. 

We shouldn’t fool ourselves.  The task will not be easy.  Since 1963, the economy has changed.  The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class — reduced the bargaining power of American workers.  And our politics has suffered.  Entrenched interests, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal — marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools, that all these things violated sound economic principles.  We’d be told that growing inequality was a price for a growing economy, a measure of this free market; that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then, there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth — that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity; that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way.  The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.  Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.  Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.  And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support — as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.

All of that history is how progress stalled.  That’s how hope was diverted.  It’s how our country remained divided.  But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path, in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations; where politics is a zero-sum game where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie — that’s one path.  Or we can have the courage to change. 

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate.  But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together.  We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago. 

And I believe that spirit is there, that truth force inside each of us.  I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child.  I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man.  It’s there when the native-born recognizing that striving spirit of the new immigrant; when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who are discriminated against and understands it as their own. 

That’s where courage comes from — when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone.  That’s where courage comes from. (Applause.)

And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages.  With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on Earth for every person.  (Applause.)  With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit, and prepares them for the world that awaits them.  (Applause.)

With that courage, we can feed the hungry, and house the homeless, and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there.  Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up.  That’s how a movement happens.  That’s how history bends.  That’s how when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching.  (Applause.)

There’s a reason why so many who marched that day, and in the days to come, were young — for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is.  They dared to dream differently, to imagine something better.  And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose stirs in this generation.

We might not face the same dangers of 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains.  We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago — no one can match King’s brilliance — but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains.  (Applause.)  

That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge — she’s marching.  (Applause.)

That successful businessman who doesn’t have to but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con who is down on his luck — he’s marching.  (Applause.)

The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same door as anybody’s son — she’s marching.  (Applause.)

The father who realizes the most important job he’ll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn’t have a father — especially if he didn’t have a father at home — he’s marching.  (Applause.)

The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again, and walk again, and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home — they are marching.  (Applause.)

Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day — that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship — you are marching.  (Applause.)

And that’s the lesson of our past.  That’s the promise of tomorrow — that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.  That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  (Applause.)

More than 300 sites to ring bells for MLK ‘Dream’ speech

The final refrain of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous speech will echo around the world as bells from churches, schools and historical monuments “let freedom ring” in celebration of a powerful moment in civil rights history.

Organizers said people at more than 300 sites in nearly every state will ring their bells at 3 p.m. their time today, Aug. 28, or at 3 p.m. EDT, the hour when King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

Commemorations are planned from the site of the speech in Washington to the far reaches of Alaska, where participants plan to ring cow bells along with church bells in Juneau.

On Aug. 28, 1963, as King was wrapping up his speech at the Lincoln Memorial, he quoted from the patriotic song, “My Country `tis of Thee.”

King implored his audience to “let freedom ring” from the hilltops and mountains of every state in the nation, some of which he cited by name in his speech.

“When we allow freedom to ring – when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, `Free at last, free at last, great God almighty, we are free at last,” King said in closing.

Today (Aug. 28) bells will answer his call from each of the specific states King named, as well as at other sites around the nation and the world. At the Lincoln Memorial, President Barack Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will join members of the King family and Georgia Rep. John Lewis, who also spoke at the March on Washington, in ringing a bell that hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., before the church was bombed in 1963, organizers said.

International commemorations will be held at London’s Trafalgar Square, as well as in the nations of Japan, Switzerland, Nepal and Liberia. London Mayor Boris Johnson has said King’s speech resonates around the world and continues to inspire people as one of the great pieces of oratory.

“The response to our call to commemorate the March on Washington and my father’s `I Have a Dream’ speech has been overwhelming,” King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, said in a written statement.

Some of the sites that will host ceremonies are symbolic, such as the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kan., a monument to the landmark Supreme Court case that outlawed segregated schools in 1954. Bells will also be rung at Lookout Mountain in Tennessee and Stone Mountain in Georgia, a site with a Confederate memorial that King referenced in his speech.

In the nation’s capital, numerous organizations and churches will ring their bells at 3 p.m., including the Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall. Washington National Cathedral will play a series of tunes and spirituals on its carillon from the church’s central bell tower, including “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” “Amazing Grace,” “We Shall Overcome” and “My Country `tis of Thee.”

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, the cathedral’s dean, said bell ringing is a symbol of freedom in the nation’s history and that many churches are trying to answer King’s call to be faithful to the roots of the civil rights movement.

“It’s a kind of proclamation of our aspirations for the expansion of freedom for all people,” he said. “It’s always important to remember that the civil rights movement started largely as a church movement. … It was essentially a group of black clergy with some white allies.”

King preached his final Sunday sermon at the National Cathedral in 1968 before traveling on to Memphis, Tenn., where he was assassinated. King had been turning his attention more toward economic inequalities with his Poor People’s Campaign, moving beyond solely racial issues to talk about all poor people and high unemployment.

“My feeling is that 50 years later, we need to look at ourselves and our own diversity and our own need to be more open and inclusive and diverse than we have been historically,” Hall said. The anniversary is a reminder, he said, “of what a powerful moment that march was in American history and how it really calls us to try to keep faith with the work that was begun 50 years ago.”

On the Web…

March on Washington Commemoration: HTTP://OFFICIALMLKDREAM50.COM

King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech: HTTP://WWW.ARCHIVES.GOV/PRESS/EXHIBITS/DREAM-SPEECH.PDF 

Sides agree to drop Paula Deen discrimination suit

Lawyers signed a deal earlier this week to drop a discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against celebrity cook Paula Deen, who was dumped by the Food Network and other business partners after she said under oath that she had used racial slurs in the past.

A document filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah, Ga., said both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit “without any award of costs or fees to any party.” No other details of the agreement were released. The judge in the case had not signed an order to finalize the dismissal.

Former employee Lisa Jackson last year sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices that were unfair to black workers during her five years as a manager of Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. Deen is co-owner of the restaurant, which is primarily run by her brother.

The dismissal deal came less than two weeks after Judge William T. Moore threw out the race discrimination claims, ruling Jackson, who is white, had no standing to sue over what she said was poor treatment of black workers. He let Jackson’s claims of sexual harassment stand, but the deal drops those also.

The lawsuit would be dismissed “with prejudice,” which means it can’t be brought again with the same claims.

“While this has been a difficult time for both my family and myself, I am pleased that the judge dismissed the race claims and I am looking forward to getting this behind me,” Deen said in a statement Friday.

Jackson also issued a statement that backpedaled on assertions that Deen held “racist views.”

“I assumed that all of my complaints about the workplace environment were getting to Paula Deen, but I learned during this matter that this was not the case,” Jackson said in the statement, which was confirmed by her attorney. “The Paula Deen I have known for more than eight years is a woman of compassion and kindness and will never tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind toward anyone.”

It wasn’t Jackson’s racism allegations, but rather Deen’s own words that ended up causing serious damage to her public image and pocketbook. The lawsuit got little public attention for more than a year until Jackson’s lawyer questioned Deen under oath in May. A transcript of the deposition became public in June, and it caused an immediate backlash against Deen.

Deen was asked if she has ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen replied, though she added: “It’s been a very long time.”

Within a few days, the Food Network didn’t renew Deen’s contract and yanked her shows off the air. Smithfield Foods, the pork producer that paid Deen as a celebrity endorser, dropped her soon after.

Retailers including Wal-Mart and Target said they’ll no longer sell Deen’s products and publisher Ballantine scuttled plans for her upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. 1 seller on Amazon. Deen also parted company with her longtime New York agent, Barry Weiner, who had worked to turn Deen into a comfort-food queen since she was little more than a Savannah restaurant owner and self-publisher of cookbooks.

The judge issued an order Friday saying he still plans a hearing on whether Jackson’s lead attorney, Matthew Billips, should be sanctioned for what Deen’s lawyers called unprofessional conduct in the case. In earlier court filings Deen’s lawyers said Billips threatened Deen with embarrassing media exposure, made inappropriate comments about the cook and the lawsuit on Twitter and purposefully asked Deen embarrassing questions that weren’t relevant to the case during her deposition.

However, a filing by Deen’s attorneys asked the judge to drop their motion for sanctions against Billips.

Billips declined to comment on the lawsuit resolution other than to say “the matter has been amicably resolved.” Deen attorneys Grace Speights and Harvey Weitz did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Forbes magazine last year ranked Deen as the fourth-highest-earning celebrity cook last year, figuring she had hauled in $17 million. Her company Paula Deen Enterprises generates total annual revenue of nearly $100 million, according to Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

In her statement Friday, Deen said that “those who truly know how I live my life know that I believe in kindness and fairness for everyone.” She also promised to take a closer look at how her employees are treated.

“I look forward to getting back to doing what I love,” she said.

In her lawsuit, Jackson had claimed Hiers frequently made jokes containing racial slurs at work and prohibited black workers from using the restaurant’s front entrance and customer restrooms. She said she was personally offended because she had biracial nieces.

Attorneys for Deen said in court filings that Jackson’s lawsuit was based on “scurrilous and false claims.”

They said before Jackson filed suit, she threatened to embarrass Deen publicly unless she paid the ex-employee “huge sums of money.”

Marching for King’s dream: The task is not done

Tens of thousands of people marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and down the National Mall on Aug. 24, commemorating the 50th anniversary of King’s famous speech and pledging that his dream includes equality for gays, Latinos, the poor and the disabled.

The event was an homage to a generation of activists that endured fire hoses, police abuse and indignities to demand equality for African Americans. But there was a strong theme of unfinished business.

“This is not the time for nostalgic commemoration,” said Martin Luther King III, the oldest son of the slain civil rights leader. “Nor is this the time for self-congratulatory celebration. The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more.”

Eric Holder, the nation’s first black attorney general, said he would not be in office, nor would Barack Obama be president, without those who marched.

“They marched in spite of animosity, oppression and brutality because they believed in the greatness of what this nation could become and despaired of the founding promises not kept,” Holder said.

Holder mentioned gays and Latinos, women and the disabled as those who had yet to fully realize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. Others in the crowd advocated organized labor, voting rights, revamping immigration policies and access to local post offices.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington, railed against a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. Lewis was a leader of a 1965 march, where police beat and gassed marchers who demanded access to voting booths.

“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Ala., for the right to vote,” he said. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You’ve got to stand up. Speak up, speak out and get in the way.”

Organizers expected about 100,000 people to participate in the event, the precursor to the actual anniversary of the Aug. 28, 1963, march that drew some 250,000 to the National Mall and ushered in the idea of massive, nonviolent demonstrations.

Marchers began arriving early on Aug. 24, many staking out their spots as the sun rose in a clear sky over the Capitol. By midday, tens of thousands had gathered on the National Mall.

Lynda Chambers, 58, gave up a day’s pay to attend because her retail job does not provide paid vacation. Even as a 7-year-old at the time of the original march, she felt alienated and deprived of her rights. Remembering those feelings, she said, she was compelled to make the trip Saturday.

“I wanted to have some sort of connection to what I have always known, as far as being a black person,” she said.

Longtime activist Al Sharpton, now a MSNBC host, implored young black men to respect women and reminded them that two of the leading figures in the civil rights movement of the 1960s were women.

“Rosa Parks wasn’t no ho,” he said. “And Fannie Lou Hamer wasn’t no bitch.”

Speakers frequently mentioned persistent high unemployment among blacks, which is about twice that of white Americans, and the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. Along the Mall, Martin’s picture was nearly as ubiquitous as King’s.

Nancy Norman, of Seattle, said she was disappointed more people who look like her had not attended. She is white. But the 58-year-old she said she was glad to hear climate change discussed alongside voting rights.

“I’m the kind of person who thinks all of those things are interconnected. Climate change is at the top of my list,” said Norman. “I don’t think it’s one we can set aside for any other discussion.”

Those in attendance arrived in a post-9/11 Washington that was very different from the one civil rights leaders visited in 1963.

Then, people crowded the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and could get close to King to hear his “I Have a Dream” speech. Saturday’s speakers also were on the memorial’s steps, but metal barriers kept people away from the reflecting pool and only a small group of attendees was allowed near the memorial Saturday.

There was a media area and VIP seating. Everyone else had been pushed back and watched and listened to the speeches on big-screen televisions. Police were stationed atop the Lincoln Memorial. After the speeches, marchers walked from there, past the King Memorial, then down the National Mall to the Washington Monument, a distance of just over a mile.

On the day of the anniversary, President Barack Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. He will be joined by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Churches and groups have been asked to ring bells at 3 p.m. Wednesday, marking the exact time King spoke.

Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with King, urged the crowd to continue working for King’s ideals.

“We’ve come to Washington to commemorate,” the 92-year-old civil rights leader said, “and we’re going home to agitate.”

Back to school: Schoolhouse social justice

Educators rallied this summer in Atlanta at the National Education Association’s annual conference to prepare for the 2013–14 school year.

Over the summer recess, there were significant developments on issues on the NEA’s political agenda. The Supreme Court overturned the provision in the Defense of Marriage Act that barred the federal government from recognizing married gay couples and cleared the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California. Also, gay couples began marrying in three more states, the U.S. Senate approved a massive immigration reform bill and stronger gun control laws were enacted in several states.

Regarding the Court’s rulings on marriage equality, NEA president Dennis Van Roekel said, “I cannot help but be moved by the thought of all of the children and students we serve whose families will now be made whole.”

Van Roekel observed that the day before the Court ruled for marriage equality, it struck down a provision in the Voting Rights Act, dealing a “horrible blow to the progress we’ve made in our journey to achieve racial equality.”

Van Roekel said the NEA has recommitted to social justice campaigns in a school year bookended by the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington and the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision against segregation in Brown v. Board of Education.

“The spirit of Brown was really about whether all children should have the same opportunities to learn,” he said. 

Marching again: Civil rights activists returning to rally in D.C.

When they announced the 2013 March on Washington, organizers planned a commemorative event marking the 50th anniversary of the historic demonstration that climaxed with Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” speech.

But the same week in June that activists debuted preliminary plans for this month’s actions, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the summer’s celebratory events took on greater urgency. The Great March on Washington in 1963 fueled passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that now needs saving.

“It is the intent of those that come together to make it clear that this is not just a nostalgia visit, that this is not a commemoration but a continuation and a call to action,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network.

One march – organized by NAN in partnership with the King Center and the groups behind the ’63 march – is set for Aug. 24. Another march takes place on Aug. 28, 50 years to the day of the 1963 march, and, according to organizers, will conclude with President Barack Obama speaking from the Lincoln Memorial.

Now, as was the case 50 years ago, the marches are about jobs, justice and freedom.

The Aug. 24 event begins at 8 a.m. EDT with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial and then the march to the King Memorial.

The Aug. 28 march will assemble at about 8 a.m. EDT at 600 New Jersey Ave., with participants from the 1963 event at the front of the procession. The march begins at 9:30 a.m., with a stop at the U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., another stop at the U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave., and then a walk to the National Mall. There, organizers plan a number of speeches, including one by the president.

Organizers have chartered buses, booked seats on trains and planes and established carpooling communities, as well as set up networks for marchers to find a bed or a couch for an overnight in D.C.

“Midwest activists are still organizing for the trip,” said Chicago civil rights activist Claire Ruehlmann. “But I think we’ll see thousands headed east from the Lake Michigan states. We’re starting to hear from people who marched in 1963, some who were in their early 20s then, and some who were just kids.”

Civil rights veteran and longtime King associate Bayard Rustin, who was openly gay, coordinated logistics for the 1963 march. The demonstrators arrived by the hundreds of thousands – there were 21 chartered trains, 2,000 buses and 10 chartered airlines – to walk from the Washington Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial. There, gathered around the reflecting pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, they heard from King, Rustin, Josephine Baker, labor leader Walter Reuther, CORE chairman Floyd McKissick, A. Phillip Randolph, Eugene Carson Blake, National Urban League director Whitney Young, NAACP leader Roy Wilkins and now-Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was a young activist at the time.

King’s speech, carried live on television, is the best-remembered of the event and is universally hailed as one of the greatest speeches in history.

“I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character,” King said. “I have a dream today.”

Lewis’ speech proved the most controversial, partly for what he was not allowed to say. The speech was edited to exclude criticism of the Kennedy administration and a fiery call to nonviolent revolution: “We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground – nonviolently.”

On Aug. 24, Lewis again will address marchers, as will House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, the family of Trayvon Martin, the family of Emmett Till, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel, labor leaders Lee Saunders and Mary Kay Henry, and Janet Murgula of the National Council of LaRAZA.

Martin Luther King III, King’s eldest son, plans to climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to speak.

Earlier this summer, he said many Americans who have faced a history of exclusion – people of color, women, workers, immigrants, LGBT citizens – still disproportionately face poverty, unemployment, underemployment, inadequate health care, voter suppression and discrimination.

Sharpton said, “We are in a climate that is threatening too much of what was achieved 50 years ago.”

The marches take place during Congress’ summer recess, with lawmakers due back to D.C. on Sept 9.

Then, said Lewis, hearings will resume on restoring the “heart and soul” of the Voting Rights Act.

In the capital: On Aug. 28, citizens from across the country will converge on the nation’s capital to commemorate the historic March On Washington that occurred on Aug. 28, 1963. Also, on Aug. 24, citizens from across the country will gather for the 50th anniversary March on Washington National Action to Realize the Dream.

In Milwaukee: From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on  Aug. 24, Milwaukee will stage a commemorative march beginning at the MLK statue on Martin Luther King Drive. For more information, phone Tracey Dent at 414-502-7296 or James Ferguson at 414-264-6888. 

LGBT groups issue letter supporting civil rights march

With events marking the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington set for this weekend and through next week, a coalition of LGBT civil rights groups has issued a letter of support.

The National Gay and Lesbian task Force led the effort to collect support from the LGBT community.

The letter reads:

Over the past year, our community has celebrated tremendous wins in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality and justice.

We have collectively cheered the first ever Senate committee markup of an inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Social Security Administration’s modernization of its gender marker policy and U.S. Supreme Court wins on marriage equality in the Windsor and Perry rulings. But we remain frustrated that ENDA is still not the law of the land and we’re angered and deeply disappointed with the Court’s decision to turn back critical parts of the historic Voting Rights Act in Shelby.

We must channel this frustration and disappointment into action to tackle employment discrimination, voter suppression tactics, immigration reform and racial profiling, to name only a few.

This month we have an opportunity to bring the combined energy from our victories to a major gathering that will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom. History was made that day 50 years ago when thousands came to Washington, D.C. to lift up their voices in support of civil rights, employment protection and an end to racial segregation in our nation’s schools. On Aug. 24, we will rededicate ourselves to that dream of equality and justice.

It has been over 40 years since Stonewall and the birth of the modern LGBTQ rights movement. As national, state and local LGBTQ organizations, we know that while there have been many advancements over the last four decades since Stonewall and the five decades since the 1963 March, there is still much more work to be done. We are proud to commemorate the 1963 March and, once again, come together and collectively take action to “Realize the Dream.”

At a time when the nation still does not have clear federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, we still need to step up and be visible. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to find and keep a job in a safe work environment with a living wage regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. We also believe that all members of our community, whether they are seniors, middle-aged or youth, deserve to be safe from violence, harassment, exploitation and racial profiling when they are at home, school, work, or in any other public places. As LGBTQ people, we believe that quality health care should be accessible, affordable and culturally competent. We believe that the 11 million undocumented immigrants, including at least 267,000 undocumented LGBT people living in this country, should have a real pathway to citizenship and people from all backgrounds should be able to stay with their families. We believe these are issues that cut across all lines of gender, race and ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation, ability and immigration status. It’s time to join forces and demonstrate our collective power.

Take Action

Working together, this rally and mobilization is an opportunity to lift up the voices of LGBT people as part of a broad progressive agenda for social and economic justice. Please join us on Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 a.m.-3 p.m. in Washington, D.C., at the DC War Memorial at 900 Independence Ave, SW, Washington, DC 20245, as we come together in support of freedom and justice!

The letter is signed “In Solidarity” by: Get Equal, Human Rights Campaign, National Black Justice Coalition, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Pride at Work, AFL-CIO and with endorsements from: Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, Believe Out Loud, Bethel Christian Church, BiNet USA, Bisexual Resource Center, Center for Black Equity, CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers, The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, Equality Federation, Family Equality Council, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, FORGE, Inc., Freedom to Marry, Freedom to Work, Gay-Straight Alliance Network, GLAAD, GLAD, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), Harvey Milk Foundation, Immigration Equality, Lambda Legal, Leadership Team of NASPA GLBT Knowledge Community, Marriage Equality USA, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, NQAPIA, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, PFLAG National, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), The Trevor Project, Trans Advocacy Network, Trans People of Color Coalition, Transgender Law Center, Unid@s and The National Latin@ LGBT Human rights Organization.

PHOTO — The crowd at the March on Washington in 1963. Photo: Wiki Commons

‘Ex-gay’ gospel singer removed from MLK concert lineup

A gospel singer who says God delivered him from being gay was removed from a concert lineup at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial after a request from Washington’s mayor.

The Washington Post reported that singer Donnie McClurkin was scheduled to perform at the concert Saturday evening to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Several gay rights activists objected to his participation ahead of the event.

Doxie McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Vincent Gray, says the Grammy-winning singer decided not perform because the purpose of the event was to bring people together.

But in a video statement, McClurkin says he was “asked not to attend” and was uninvited from the concert. McClurkin says there should be freedom of speech “as long as it’s done in love.”