Groups Slam U.S. Olympic Committee For “Inherent Conflict” On LGBT Anti-Discrimination Policies

Getty/Ned Dishman

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Olympic Committee made news last week when it added sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination code of conduct.

The USOC didn’t say last week — and wouldn’t respond to questions this week about — whether another provision in the code of conduct requiring athletes to obey all foreign laws runs afoul of its own new nondiscrimination policy.

Both the Human Rights Campaign and All Out raised concerns about the potential conflict between the provisions.

“We welcome the news that the USOC has added sexual orientation to the non-discrimination policy in its code of conduct, and hope this is a sign of more good things to come. However, given the fact that the very same code of conduct requires that athletes adhere to foreign laws, this new non-discrimination policy becomes moot the second athletes arrive to Sochi,” HRC vice president of communications Fred Sainz told BuzzFeed.

Questions about Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law, which bans “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” have been front and center in the run-up to the Winter Olympics slated to take place in February in Sochi, Russia.

The broad interpretation of “promotion” and enforcement of the law to any public displays or any mass-media displays relating to such “promotion,” however, means that almost any public or web-based pro-LGBT discussions or events could be found to violate the law. In addition to fines for anyone who violates the law, foreigners convicted of a violation can be put in jail for up to 15 days and then deported.

In addition to its new nondiscrimination policy, meanwhile, the USOC Code of Conduct also “requires that you follow the Code of Conduct and abide by all applicable USOC policies and procedures; United States federal, state and local law as applicable, including the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, codified at 36 U.S.C. §§ 22501 – 22529; and foreign law as applicable.”

As such, obeying foreign law could cause problems for out gay people traveling with the USOC. “The inherent conflict is the very reason why we believe the USOC must take a more activist position against these heinous Russian laws. Ironically, this new policy has created a very compelling rationale for greater involvement by the USOC, not distanced them from the issue,” HRC’s Sainz said.

All Out, the organization aimed at pressing for change on gay rights through use of social media and online organizing, went even further.

“Despite their best intentions, the USOC non-discrimination policy and the IOC’s Charter will be toothless as long as Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law remains in place. The USOC and IOC should press for the repeal before the 2014 Sochi Games,” Andre Banks, the executive director of All Out told BuzzFeed. “It’s not too late. China made serious concessions ahead of Beijing to ensure the [2008 Olympic] Games were consistent with international standards and Russia should not be exempt from doing the same.”

Last week, however, USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun reiterated a position long espoused by the International Olympic Committee that “we do not think it is our role to advocate for a change in the Russian law.”

With its nondiscrimination policy in place now, though, LGBT advocates are not ready to allow the potential conflict to persist without trying to force the USOC to take more action or at least answer their questions about any future problems.

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Kerry Ramps Up Rhetoric Ahead Of Next Middle East Trip

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State John Kerry continued to escalate his rhetorical push for peace between Israel and the Palestinians during a speech to the American Jewish Committee on Monday, his first in front of a major Jewish group as secretary.

“We are running out of time,” Kerry said. “If we do not succeed now, and I know I’m raising those stakes, we may not get another chance.”

“What happens in the coming days will dictate what happens in coming decades,” Kerry said. Kerry was in Jordan, Oman, and Israel last month and is returning for another Middle East trip next week.

Kerry called for both Israel and the Palestinians to “summon the courage” to restart the moribund peace process, which has not been active for over four years. Kerry has made it his special mission to breathe life into this process and has said recently that there is a one- to two-year window after which further progress won’t be possible. Kerry’s enthusiasm has been met with some skepticism in Israel, where Haaretz described him as a “naive and ham-handed diplomat who has been acting like a bull in the china shop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

On Monday, Kerry warned against one-staters on both sides, saying, “A realistic one-state solution does not exist for either side.”

“We all know cynicism has never solved anything,” Kerry said. “It has never given birth to a state and it won’t.”

“What happens if the Palestinian economy implodes? If the Palestinian Authority fails?” he asked. “Are we prepared to live with an nonstop conflict?”

And Kerry reminded the audience of the Palestinians’ success at the United Nations last year, when the body voted to upgrade their status to non-member observer state. He warned that the next time the Palestinians go to the UN, they’ll probably garner even more support than last time, implying that Israel is isolated on the world stage.

The U.S. has Israel’s back, Kerry said, but “wouldn’t we be stronger if we had more company?”

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The World Reacts To The Presidential Election

44. United Arab Emirates

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With New Poll, Ohio Group Continues Push For 2014 Marriage Equality Amendment

WASHINGTON — Only about one-third of Ohioans would oppose an amendment allowing same-sex couples to marry in the state if informed about what the amendment means, polling conducted for a group pushing for marriage equality in the Buckeye State shows.

Freedom to Marry Ohio — not affiliated with the national group, Freedom to Marry — is unveiling the polling showing a majority of voters support a marriage equality amendment at a news conference Thursday aimed at buttressing support for its effort to reverse the state’s 2004 ban on marriage equality next year.

National groups, including Freedom to Marry and the Human Rights Campaign, as well as the statewide organization, Equality Ohio, have launched a more modest education campaign — Why Marriage Matters Ohio — that is looking toward going to voters in 2016 or later.

Less than 10 years ago, Ohio voters overwhelmingly amended their constitution to ban same-sex couples from marrying or obtaining similar protections, as in civil unions.

Ian James, through his organization, Freedom to Marry Ohio, is releasing polling today that shows the 62-38 passage of the amendment banning same-sex couples from marrying has nearly reversed in the past nine years.

The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling of 1,011 Ohio voters from Dec. 6-8, 2013, concluded that 52% of voters would vote in favor of an amendment that “would allow two consenting adults to be married, so long as they are not nearer of kin than second cousins, are not currently married to someone, and no religious institutions will be required to perform or recognize a marriage.” Thirty-eight percent would oppose the amendment, and nine percent were undecided.

Of the 38% who would vote against the amendment, however, PPP asked a follow-up question: “This constitutional amendment protects religious liberties by allowing any house of worship, such as a church or synagogue, to refuse to marry a same-sex couple. Knowing this, if the election were held today, would you vote in favor of this amendment to the Ohio Constitution to allow same-sex couples to marry, or would you vote against it?”

More than 10% of those initially against the amendment said that information would change their vote to supporting the amendment, which brought the total support up to 56%. Five percent of those initially against the amendment moved into the undecided camp, bringing the total undecided to 10%. Eighty-four percent of those opposed did not change their position with that information, bringing the total opposition down to 34%.

“In this latter scenario where voters have the amendment language and the ‘right to refuse’ language, support for the amendment grows to 56%, while opposition drops to 34%. The amendment language and ‘Right to Refuse’ moves voters across all demographic groups to support, and demonstrates the importance of specificity in amendment language versus concept,” Jim Kitchens and Bob Carpenter, pollsters who conducted a “peer review” of the PPP poll, wrote in a memorandum to James.

From Freedom to Marry Ohio:

Read the PPP poll:

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Community Post: Public Opinion On Marriage Equality From DOMA’s Passage To Its Defeat

Polling data retrieved from archives at Each dot represents the individual result of a national poll that asked if participants supported or opposed same-sex marriage (or asked the question in similar language). Note that the trendline is only intended to represent a general guide of overall sentiment and not an exact figure or average at any point.

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Rand Paul Will Stall Brennan Even Without A Filibuster

Gary Cameron / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Rand Paul promised to try to block John Brennan’s confirmation as CIA director, either with a filibuster or by recruiting his friends on the Senate Intelligence Committee during an interview with WABC Radio’s Aaron Klein that will air on Sunday night.

“I will do everything I can to stop him, and I told him I will filibuster it,” Paul said. “Unfortunately I am not enough. You know, it takes 41. And we could not hold 41 together on the Hagel nomination. So my guess is I will not get 41.”

Paul explained his strategy for blocking Brennan via the committee vote.

“My best chance, though, is that I have allies in the Committee,” Paul said. “The Intelligence Committee is pretty powerful on these things. And the CIA realizes that, and the president has to deal with the intelligence committee. If the Intelligence Committee will continue to object and ask my question, Brennan will not come forward. They have the power to hold his nomination — and right now, see he was supposed to be approved by the committee last Thursday and they moved it to this Tuesday. So that means that I have a very good chance the White House will be forced to respond.”

Paul is demanding answers to his questions about drone strikes within U.S. territory, and predicted that the White House would provide them on Monday.

“When John Brennan has been asked, he says that there are no geographical limitations to the use of drones strikes,” Paul said. “And so the follow-up question is, obviously, does that mean even the U.S. border is not a geographical limitation?”

“We have laws in the United States that say the CIA is not to operate in the United States and we restrict our own military from operating in the United States … And so I am very, very concerned about this,” Paul said. “I think I may get an answer. The rumor we are hearing back from the White House is on Monday we may get an answer. And the only answer that will satisfy me is, no, they wont break the law and that the drone strikes in the U.S. will break the law.”

Paul voted for the confirmation of Chuck Hagel after voting to support a filibuster on him, and said last week that “the president gets to choose political appointees.”

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President Obama And Chris Christie’s Jersey Shore Bro Show

1. President Obama and Gov. Chris Christie toured the Jersey Shore Tuesday to inspect recovery efforts seven months after Hurricane Sandy struck.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

2. They went to the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk and played some games, like this one where you have to throw a football through a tire.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

3. Obama actually missed every single time he tried — like he literally went 0 for 5 — but they still gave him a prize.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

4. It was a Chicago Bears bear.

JASON REED / Reuters

5. Christie won on his first try, though.

JASON REED / Reuters

8. The White House press secretary told reporters Obama believes Christie “has done an excellent job in the efforts he’s undertaken” to rebuild the region.

JASON REED / Reuters

9. And Obama told tourists to come to the Jersey Shore, saying, “America, bring your family and friends. Spend a little money on the Jersey Shore.”

JASON REED / Reuters

10. Here’s video of Obama and Christie’s remarks following their boardwalk jaunt.

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Obama Administration Will Consider Gay Couples’ Marriages In Deportation Decisions

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security will avoid deporting foreign same-sex spouses of Americans, an Administration spokesman told BuzzFeed Wednesday, under a policy to consider same-sex marriages a reason not to start deportation proceedings.

The statement — which comes in response to pressure from House Democrats and advocates — makes explicit that the Obama Administration will consider same-sex marriages a reason not to start deportation proceedings.

“[W]hen exercising prosecutorial discretion in enforcement matters, DHS looks at the totality of the circumstances presented in individual cases, including whether an individual has close family ties to the United States as demonstrated by his or her same-sex marriage or other longstanding relationship to a United States citizen,” Peter Boogaard told BuzzFeed Monday.

Although a man and woman who marry when one spouse is American and one is not are able to get a green card for the foreign partner, the Defense of Marriage Act prevents the federal government from issuing green cards to same-sex couples. Advocates, however, have been pressing the Obama administration to put green-card applications by gay couples on hold — or to at least halt deportation proceedings for same-sex foreign partners who would otherwise be eligible for a green card — while DOMA is challenged in the courts.

Marriages or other “longstanding relationships” between an American citizen and foreign individual do constitute the type of “close family ties” that would lead the department to consider an immigration case a “low priority” that it would not pursue in its exercise of prosecutorial discretion, Boogaard explained.

Unlike in the case of a straight married couple, in which case the law defines the marriage as an independent basis for granting a green card, Homeland Security’s policy regarding same-sex couples does not make it an independent basis but instead makes it a factor in deciding whether or not to pursue removal proceedings.

The issue arose because the administration had appeared to backtrack in the past year on a commitment to include such a policy in its effort to focus Homeland Security’s resources on high-priority immigration cases. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and more than 80 of her House colleagues pushed the Obama administration to put in writing a policy on the matter.

The department has issued a new policy governing the issuances of “Notice to Appear” documents, which is the step that starts removal proceedings, which can lead to deportation. The new policy will put the policies of U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services — which considers green card applications — in alignment with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement policies for “low priority” enforcement cases, according to the department — which means that USCIS won’t likely issue the notices unless other negative factors, like a criminal record, are found. A spokesman did not respond to an immediate request for a copy of the policy.

Boogaard told BuzzFeed that the department will continue to comply with DOMA — which prevents green cards from being issued to foreign same-sex partners of Americans — “unless and until Congress repeals it, or there a final judicial determination that it is unconstitutional.” The Obama administration has noted that continued enforcement since President Obama and the Department of Justice announced in February 2011 they would no longer be defending DOMA in court challenges.

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