Thursday, August 28, 2014
VA Sued for Denying Benefits to Gay Spouses
A law firm representing gay and lesbian service members and veterans on Tuesday filed suit against the Veterans Affairs Department for failing to extend benefits to same-sex spouses who live in states that do not recognize their marriages.
"Gay and lesbian veterans have served their country and risked the ultimate sacrifice to fulfill their duty to this nation," said Susan Sommer, director of Constitutional Litigation at Lambda Legal of New York City. "No member of our community should be left behind just because their home state continues to discriminate against their marriage."
The VA should not rely on state marriage bans that the high court already has declared unconstitutional as the basis to deny spousal benefits, the suit contends.
"VA cannot comment on pending litigation," VA Communications Director James Hutton said.
Lambda, along with the Morrison and Foerster LLP firm of Washington, DC, and San Diego, California, argue that the benefits denial violates the U.S. Supreme Court's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in June 2013.
The legal teams filed the suit on behalf of the American Military Partner Association, a non-profit support network for lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender military personnel and their families.
The VA currently does not grant benefits to spouses of gay veterans if the couple were married in, or -- at the time they accrued benefits -- living in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriages, according to the lawsuit.
The suit also claims the VA is refusing to extend such benefits even though it had previously conceded that "the exclusion of legally married same-sex couples from veterans' benefits is not rationally related to any military interest or other identified governmental purpose."
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage.
The denied benefits include pension, survivors benefits, and home loan guarantees.
Stephen Peters, president of AMPA and a Marine veteran married to an active duty Marine, said it is "unacceptable to see [association] members not only discriminated against in their home states where their marriages are disrespected, but also turned down by the federal government for basic veterans benefits for their spouses."
In the active-duty military, same-sex spouses receive the same benefits regardless of whether the state they live in recognize their marriage.
UK: Rotherham sex abuse scandal: 1,400 children exploited by Asian gangs while authorities turned a blind eye
More than 1,400 children were sexually abused during a period of over 16 years by gangs of paedophiles after police and council bosses turned a blind eye for fear of being labelled racist, a damning report has concluded.
Senior officials were responsible for “blatant” failures that saw victims, some as young as 11, being treated with contempt and categorised as being “out of control” or simply ignored when they asked for help.
In some cases, parents who tried to rescue their children from abusers were themselves arrested. Police officers even dismissed the rape of children by saying that sex had been consensual.
Downing Street last night described the failure to halt the abuse in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, as “appalling”.
Following the publication of the report, the leader of Rotherham council, Roger Stone, resigned, but no other council employees will face disciplinary proceedings after it was claimed that there was not enough evidence to take action.
There were calls for Shaun Wright, the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire, to step down after it emerged that he was the councillor with responsibility for children’s services in Rotherham for part of the period covered by the report.
Details of the appalling depravity in the town and the systemic failures that allowed it to continue were laid out in a report published by Professor Alexis Jay, the former chief inspector of social work in Scotland. Victims were gang raped, while others were groomed and trafficked across northern England by groups of mainly Asian men.
When children attempted to expose the abuse, they were threatened with guns, warned that their loved ones would be raped and, in one case, doused in petrol and told they would be burnt alive.
Prof Jay wrote: “No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham over the years. Our conservative estimate is that approximately 1,400 children were sexually exploited over the full inquiry period, from 1997 to 2013.
“It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated.”
She added: “There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone.”
The report pinned the blame squarely on failings within the leadership of South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham council.
Prof Jay said: “Within social care, the scale and seriousness of the problem was underplayed by senior managers. At an operational level, the police gave no priority to child sex exploitation, regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.”
It emerged that there had been three previous reports into the problem which had been suppressed or ignored by officials, either because they did not like or did not believe the findings.
Yesterday’s report concluded that by far the majority of perpetrators were Asian men, and said council officials had been unwilling to address the issue for fear of being labelled racist.
The report stated: “Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away. Several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist; others remembered clear direction from their managers not to do so.”
For years, the police failed to get a grip of the problem, dismissing many of the victims as “out of control” or as “undesirables” who were not worthy of police protection.
The report was commissioned by Rotherham council following the conviction in 2010 of five men who were given lengthy jail terms after being found guilty of grooming teenage girls for sex.
Police said they are currently dealing with 32 live investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and in the past 12 months 15 people have been prosecuted or charged.
Other similar high-profile cases followed in towns and cities including Rochdale, Derby and Oxford.
Last night a No 10 spokesman said: “The failings of local agencies exposed by this inquiry are appalling.
“We are determined that the lessons of past failures must be learned and that those who have exploited these children are brought to justice.”
John Cameron, of the NSPCC, said: “This report is truly damning and highlights consistent failures to protect children from sexual abuse at the hands of predatory groups of men.
“It appears there was at a senior level a collective blindness over many years to the suffering of children who endured almost incomprehensible levels of violence and intimidation. Many of these children were already extremely vulnerable and the manner in which they were let down by agencies entrusted to protect them is appalling. It is quite astonishing that even when front-line staff raised concerns these were not acted upon so allowing devastating child sexual exploitation to go unchallenged.”
Responding to the criticism levelled at the police, Chief Superintendent Jason Harwin, the district commander for Rotherham, issued an unreserved apology to all the victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
“We have completely overhauled the way in which we deal with child sexual exploitation and that’s been recognised in the report and by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary earlier this year,” he said.
He added: “I accept that our recent successes in tackling CSE will not heal the pain of those victims who have been let down but we continue to deal with historic investigations with great success and will continue to thoroughly investigate any new evidence available to us.
“Our staff will relentlessly go wherever the evidence takes them and do everything they can with partners to identify offenders and bring them to justice.”
Children threatened with legal action for playing outside their homes because housing chiefs say it's 'dangerous and anti-social'
That was normal behaviour when I was a kid
Families have reacted with fury after a housing association tried to ban their children from playing outside their homes.
Residents of a suburban cul-de-sac in Worcester were left stunned when housing chiefs sent them a letter complaining about youngsters on bikes and scooters.
They now fear legal action if they allow children to venture outside during the school summer holidays.
Four families living in suburban Wensleydale Drive received letters from Nexus Housing last week telling them that children should not be playing in an area next to their homes.
Grandmother Carol Stanford, 53, who received one of the warning letters, said: 'I regularly look after my grandchildren, three-year-old Leah and Stacey, who is six.
'I'm happy for them to play in the area next to my home which is sometimes used for cars to turn around. 'But I received a letter from Nexus Housing claiming complaints had been made. I am livid.' She added: 'When I was a child, everybody used to play in the street. There's no room in my garden for them to play skipping games so this is ideal. 'It's safe and they're with friends. I called Nexus and someone told me the matter may be taken further. They said it was a health and safety issue.'
Another parent, Emma Turner, 26, has also received a letter from Nexus claiming to have received complaints about her two daughters, Ruby Jane, six, and Evie Lee, two. She said: 'It's stupid. Everyone is really friendly around here and they watch out for the kids. Nexus told me to keep my kids out of the area.'
"Not all Republicans are racist, but all racists are Republicans," said almost every die-hard American liberal/progressive since the 1960s.
This offensive and disgraceful smear is a conversation ender that the American left has dispatched countless times when debating their political opposition, even on issues totally unrelated to race. It's also a phrase casually bantered about in liberal social circles.
The first part of the phrase is meant to soften the blow of the subsequent insult; but, the overall message behind the phrase is clear: Republicans either are racist or tolerate racism.
Calling someone, or an entire group, racist should never be done casually or without careful consideration. It is a deeply hurtful accusation to throw at people who have no overt or subconscious racial bias or prejudice. As Republicans, we pride ourselves on toughness and not allowing ourselves to be easily offended. In this case, we can not allow such slander to simply slide off our backs.
Engaging in an exercise of social division, condescending liberals attempt to paint all Republicans as dumb, racist, sexist, misogynist and uncaring. Each allegation is as offensive as the one before.
I am not suggesting there aren't bigots who wave the Republican banner. However, I am declaring that narrow minded discriminators exist in all political movements and proudly display their allegiance to Democrats as well.
If you don't want to take my word for it, spend an evening at a Teamsters or municipal workers union member meeting. Some of the most disgusting, racist, sexist words I have ever personally heard uttered came from the swearing mouths of hardcore, third generation Chicago union members who have never voted for a Republican in their life and would rather eat dirt than start now.
Such verbal filth doesn't just come from the stereotypical working class guy drinking too many beers with his boys. It also comes in a more subtle form from the mouths of upper, middle income parents who firmly believe in the economic and social policies of liberal Democrats; but, tell their children to lock their doors in the grocery store parking lot when a black teenager walks by.
Racism isn't limited to words, either. Plenty of Chicago's most politically active liberals are the same people I see clutching their purse a little tighter when they walk past a pair of Hispanic men. I notice Chicago's "lakefront liberals" and city employees move to neighborhoods miles from the heart of the city, where almost no non-white families live. Chicago and many other big cities did not have large Republican electorates during the "white flight" years of the 1950s, 60s,70s and early 80s. Even today, Democratic households are moving into the suburbs and you'd have to be naive to think that has no correlation to the movement of non-white residents away from the city center into traditionally western European neighborhoods.
And as for homophobia, some of the ugliest words uttered at gay men come from the pulpits of historically black churches and Hispanic and Irish Catholic Church altars. These Christian church pews are full of generations worth of loyal Democratic voters; yet, they nod along as gay men are called "abominations" who are "condemned to hell."
The hard truth is that racism, sexism, homophobia and intolerance of all types existed and exists in both major American political parties. Unfortunately, the bigots who seem to be the loudest, most embarrassing and best at grabbing the spotlight are Republicans. Sadly, when they spew their intolerant views, there are Democrat voters quietly nodding along with their Republican rivals.
So why do Democrats ignore the racists in their ranks and exploit the presence of racists in ours? Partially because we allow them to and partially because Democrats look for excuses to avoid engaging in real political dialogue.
Republican self pride keeps many of us from expressing how deeply offensive liberal accusations are to us. We don't like to bitch and moan about political correctness or ask our political foes to temper their words. That needs to change. We can not allow slanderous statements like the one I used to start this post go unchecked. Just because someone believes in limited government and maximum individual liberty does not mean he/she is prejudiced or hateful toward any group. Just because someone has a GOP bumper sticker does not mean they have a loaded rifle in the back seat next to a Bible. These are ugly stereotypes, a word the American left supposedly reviles.
Just as with any other group of close minded people, liberals that choose to slander are simply fearful of those whom they do not understand or disagree with. Liberal commentators and comedians alike often choose to throw salacious charges at conservatives simply because they are tired of debating the issues of taxation rates, deficit spending, healthcare reform, government programs, education reform, gun rights or national security among others. If a liberal can't understand why someone, who has had different experiences than their own, would disagree with them on a topic, they simply manufacture and assign a fanatical motive onto their opponent to explain it away.
Both sides name-call and hit below the belt in America's never ending political drama. However, only die hard lefties proclaim themselves free of all bias and prejudice only to turn around and stereotype their opponents. They bestow upon themselves a position of intellectual superiority that allows them to justify their ugly caricaturing of Republicans. Liberal proclamation of "moral superiority" only adds to the smugness inherit in their riffs.
There is no justification for falsely accusing people of things for which they are not guilty.
Bigotry and intolerance is wrong. Racism is wrong. Sexism is wrong. Homophobia is wrong.
So is classifying your political opponent as any of those things as a cheap way out of a real discussion.
There are real villains in the world who hold deeply prejudiced views. Let's reserve our anger and resentment for them and stop fabricating new social enemies where none exist.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.