Candidate Survey: Public Advocate of the United States

When I first received the survey from Public Advocate of the United States, my jaw dropped. I have received some pretty outrageous letters and surveys before, but I just couldn’t be silent about this. Their website seems to be a repository of boilerplate nonsense, and it’s not really the focus of this post. If you want to visit, you’ll be treated to some pretty fringe things, so here’s some fair warning.

I chose not to participate in their survey. I couldn’t. It’s very hard to communicate with special interests and groups of people who do not enter into a dialogue honestly. It’s very obviously targeted to a certain demographic–a certain kind of candidate. I am pledged to being open and honest with people–with not hiding anything about what I believe and what I stand for. I will not pander to anyone. I’m not the kind of candidate that’s going to interact with a group that, well, you’ll see what I mean below.

I elected instead to send a letter. Their survey was hurtful; I have family, and many friends, that are LGBT. They’re not immoral, and they’re not seeking special privileges. They want equality–they want to be treated with respect, and dignity, just like any other person does. I think that they deserve that, without reservation. Groups like Public Advocate would like people to believe that there’s some great conspiracy, that a powerful and monied group of people is trying to usurp special rights and take away American values and destroy families. It’s a lie, of course. A rather malicious one that seeks to make certain citizens second class.

Fighting against this harmful and damaging rhetoric starts with people like you and me standing up and saying, “No, we will not discriminate against people because they’re different. No, we will not allow prejudice to harm and degrade human beings.”

With that said, here’s the letter, the survey, and my response.

Public_Advocate01Public_Advocate02Public_Advocate03Public_Advocate04And if you think I’m being too harsh about the “HON. EUGENE DELGAUDIO” thing, look at the return envelope that came with it.

Public_Advocate_EThis is the most direct I’ve been in a response to a survey. And I believe that it’s really important to be outspoken about these kinds of things. You have to stand up for what you believe–for what’s right. That’s my promise–I stand up for what is right, regardless of politics, or elections.

Like always, if you’d like to leave me some feedback or have a discussion, you can engage me in the comments section or send an email to jderke2014@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading.

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Candidate Survey: Michigan Family Forum

The Michigan Family Forum leaves me feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I support any efforts to strengthen families and resources to help them flourish. On the other, we disagree on many substantive issues. For instance, they submitted an amicus brief to defend Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. I celebrated, as did many of my fellow Michiganians, when Judge Friedman overturned the ban and declared it unconstitutional. It’s important to note that, in the decision, Judge Friedman noted that the scientific research to date shows that gay and lesbian parents were as good as or better than straight parents, and that the same-sex marriage ban harmed the children by fracturing their families.

Before I get into the survey, or even some more information about the Michigan Family Forum, I’m going to upload some court cases overturning state same-sex marriage bans that I have read, front front to back. I think it’s important for people to see the legal reasoning and case law that goes into these decision, and I think it’s important for people to understand that the marriage bans fail constitutional attacks spectacularly.

7th Circuit Gay Marriage Ruling

Fourth_Circuit_14-1167

State of Colorado

In the Supreme Court of Iowa

Timothy Love, et al v. Steve Beshear

Utah 10th Circuit Ruling

Kentucky-marriage-recognitioin-ruling-2-12-141

MI Gay Marriage Ruling

The problems I have with the Michigan Family Forum are related to my stances on equal rights for all Americans. They narrowly define marriage as “he life-long marriage of one man and one woman.” In states where lesbians and gays have been able to marry and have children they have been able to raise healthy, successful children. They provide stability, and they’re more likely to adopt their children and help to ease the burden on foster systems. In every conceivable metric, gay and lesbian couples provide positive benefits to society, and denying them the right to marry, as explored in the court cases I have posted, actually causes harm.

In several places at their website, you’ll find phrases similar to the following: “State and community leaders must work to ensure that the laws and policies of Michigan work to protect and promote the public health by shielding children from the harms of divorce and unhealthy sexual influences.” It’s hard, generally, to find something to disagree about with this–but that’s the problem. In general, this sounds good, but when you combine it with some of the other things that they say, I have to ask: what do they define as unhealthy sexual influences? I mean, it’s obvious that any person could name any number of sexual things that young children should avoid. But, is it wrong of me to ask if they think that homosexual families are included with their idea of “unhealthy sexual influences”? Because, if so, this general language is actually quite extreme in context and I think that, perhaps, they’re trying to hide that behind vague, ambiguous wording.

I don’t think that’s an unreasonable assumption on my part. And if that is their position, then it flies in the face of the actual data on the matter (see: Lesbian and Gay Parenting (American Psychological Association), Time: Children of Lesbians May Do Better Than Their Peers, here, here, here, and here). The facts are clear: gay and lesbian parents provide care for their children on par with straight couples, raise them just as well or better, and relieve the burden on state foster care systems.

Now, for the survey.

Michigan Family Forum01Michigan Family Forum02In the course of filling out this survey, I made some mistakes that I corrected. I’ve already spoken on some of the issues raised in this survey in previous posts. I’ll speak more about the road funding issue later, as well as the marijuana issue.

I will add some thoughts no a few of the issues in the survey.

Issue 4: I don’t support legislation to extend the waiting periods for divorce, even when minor children are involved. As hard as this is to say, adults should be able to make their own decisions and, furthermore, if you force two people who want to divorce to stay together by enacting waiting periods it could possibly do harm to the children who have to live through that waiting period. If the parents don’t get along, and there are frequent fights (but no domestic violence), that can have a pretty huge impact on children.

Issue 5: The fact is, the state relies on federal matching funds to pay for all kinds of services from a state to local municipal level. Roads, bridges, housing, and all kinds of other federal dollars help to fund projects in states. Adopting an amendment to Michigan’s Constitution to curb the money that can be brought in will, in the end, only increase the costs to Michiganians for our current services without seeing any positive benefits.

Issue 6: I agree with this as a means to curb litter and waste. I’m a conservationist. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

Issue 7: A ballot initiative on this subject didn’t pass, but it didn’t lose spectacularly (57%-42%). I think that, given the failure of the Right to Work legislation to produce any measurable benefits for Michigan’s jobs or unemployment numbers (Michigan is tied for 4th place amount states for highest unemployment according to the Bureau of Labor statistics), the mood might have changed. In any case, I’m certainly in favor of overturning the right to work law.

Issue 8: Who pays for this education program, and what are the goals? If the divorcing couple must pay for it, how much will it cost? What if they can’t afford it? What if it puts an huge burden on them? Will you disallow them to get a divorce? Will you use public funding to pay their way?

Issue 10: I have similar concerns about this as I had in issue 8. Who pays, and what if they can’t afford it if they have to pay for it? I mean, they’re trying to claim a tax exemption for already having a child. This doesn’t make much sense as a policy except to try to reduce the number of people claiming the exemption without outright appealing it.

Issue 11: Again, who pays for it?  And who pays for the possible influx of children into the foster system if they choose adoption for their child? Can the foster system handle that many more children?

In the past I might not send a survey like this in, and there are surveys that I will be putting here that I have put aside. However, I’ve really seen the value in being as open and honest as possible about these things.

So, if there’s something on your mind, please leave a comment below or contact me at jderke2014@gmail.com. Please keep it civil and respectful.

Candidate Survey: Between the Lines

Greetings, friends!

Today has been a busy day. I drove about an hour up to Mount Pleasant so that I could do a “Meet the Candidates” interview with David Nicholas at CMU Public Broadcasting. This is my first time running for any kind of public office, and I have to confess that I was a bit nervous. I think I did pretty well, though I wish I had spoken a bit more clearly. When I find that the interview has been uploaded to the internet I shall make a post linking to the video so that you can watch it from here.

The survey I’m posting now is one that I had just received today, and it couldn’t be more timely. It comes from Between the Lines, a weekly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) publication. I was kind of disappointed that it follows the “support / don’t support / don’t know” pattern, but it did provide room for additional comments at the end, so I wrote them a letter that I attached to the survey. I also wrote some comments in the margins of the survey. For further information, you can visit the previously linked website or their Voter Guide.

The survey is timely because the legislature is debating about adding “gender and sexual orientation” to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which says, in part, that an employer is not able to:

Fail or refuse to hire or recruit, discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an individual with respect to employment, compensation, or a term, condition, or privilege of employment, because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status.

The legislature has concerns about religious liberty with regard to adding the “gender and sexual orientation” language to the act, but I think in the final analysis, businesses that act in the public domain should be equally bound to anti-discrimination laws. I do respect the many religious beliefs of the people of Michigan, and I believe that they have the right, as delineated in the First Amendment, to practice their religion freely and openly. However, religious liberty has to be balanced with the liberties of others in the public domain, without one getting preference over another. The owners of a business are able to practice their religion, but if they’re running a business that operates in the public domain (for instance, attached to public roads and making use of public resources), they must be held accountable to the same laws everyone else is held accountable to. That’s a fair and equitable situation in a pluralistic democracy such as ours.

It’s important to note that we all, everyday, accept limits on our liberties. We do this so that we can live in a country with over 350 million people, all of whom have different views, beliefs, and goals. Remember the old saying, “Your freedom to swing your fists ends where my nose begins.” It’s a somewhat clumsy adage, but I think it adequately describes this situation.

With that said, I’d like to post the survey, as well as my letter.

BTL_Survey0001BTL_Survey0002BTL_Survey0003BTL_Survey0004If you have questions or comments, please feel free to drop a comment on this blog, or write me at jderke2014@gmail.com. I welcome comments and debate, as long as it is civil and productive.

Thank you for reading!

P.S. If you’re interested in some resources to compliment this post, here is a .pdf copy of Judge Friedman’s ruling on the same-sex marriage ban, as well as some scientific resources about gay conversion therapy and the abilities of gay and lesbian parents.