Two steps forward, one step back
I'm sure a large chunk of Wisconsin residents are still riding high after Sunday's nail-biter Packers Super Bowl win, so I thought I'd start today's post out with some more good news.
First of all, I'm happy to report that Gov. Walker has suffered his first major legislative defeat, this in regards to his plan to create overly restrictive rules for wind turbine siting that I wrote about earlier. The Legislature will not take up the bill during its special session, essentially killing it -- for now. Unfortunately Walker is still interested in seeing his new rules put into effect, even if that means pulling some shenanigans and seeing it done via changes to Public Service Commission rules.
It's too bad Walker hasn't seen fit to put this kind of tenacity and energy into things that will actually create good jobs.
In "small victories" news, Republicans at the federal level have apparently gotten enough egg on their face now that they've removed language from their "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions" bill that would have essentially redefined what constitutes rape in this country. That's good, but the bill itself is still writes, "The bill would also impose tax penalties on individuals and small businesses with insurance plans that include abortion....If your insurance plan covers abortion -- even if you never knew it, and even if you never used it -- you could face a tax penalty. Depending on what kinds of tax benefits you're eligible for, it could be substantial.
"...Right now, a woman who makes $25,000 is eligible to deduct any amount over $1,875 she spends on health expenses, including her insurance premiums, from her taxable income. If H.R. 3 were enacted and her health insurance plan includes coverage of abortion, she would lose a $1,731 deduction. More than 7.5 million families claim this particular medical expense deductions-and each of them would lose the deduction if their plan covers abortion."
And finally, thanks to Alison Bauter for her article in Isthmus about Rep. Steve Nass and his renewed crusade to cut programs from the UW system with which he takes ideological issue. Both the Havens Center and the School for Workers have been regular targets of his ire, but now that Republicans control the Legislature and the Executive in Wisconsin, it seems Nass has decided to make a serious push for defunding.
I'm going to be doing further research into the issue for future posts, including speaking with some of the people directly involved with the programs. In the meantime, Bauter's piece is a great place to start getting an idea of how ridiculous Nass' plan is -- both because neither center represents a very large budgetary/staffing allocation, and because if the implications of allowing politicians to take a surgical knife to particular programs they don't happen to personally like. Where do we draw the line, then?
OK so, I guess all of my good news today is tempered by continued frustrations. Sorry about that -- I tried!
Homophobia is bad for (y)our health
In a more perfect union, the fact that discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation is stupid and harmful would be self-evident to everyone. But there are still too many people who, for one reason or another, need it spelled out for them.
For too long there has been little to no hard, scientific research done on the subject of the physical and mental effects of homophobia on a population. That's all thankfully beginning to change -- and recent studies have given us solid proof of the ill-effects of our still homophobic society:
Being bullied for being gay or lesbian can cause a hormonal disruption that is known to increase suicide rates, memory loss, cardiovascular problems and bone-density depletion, a study from Montreal's Concordia University shows…
…The results showed that victims of homophobia had disruptions in their output of cortisol, a hormone released in the brain as a response to stress. Normally, cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest in the evening, but those facing homophobic bullying consistently produced higher levels throughout the day.
Suicide rates are generally higher among homosexuals. Despite claims by certain anti-gay organizations that this increased risk is the result of homosexuality itself, common sense now backed by scientific research shows that the reason lies with a bigoted society's lifelong treatment of gay people. Being gay is not a mental illness and is, in fact, entirely natural.
The study cited above now gives us a fairly definitive biological link between homophobia and stress/depression.
If that weren't enough, another recent report, released by the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and the National Center for Transgender Equality, shows the terrible "depth of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in a wide range of areas, including education, health care, employment, and housing."
In addition to (and perhaps as a result of) lower incomes, rampant workplace and housing discrimination, poor health care, and harassment by law enforcement, transgender and gender non-conforming individuals reported "an astonishing" 41% rate of attempted suicide, in comparison to just 1.6% of the general population.
This is, simply put, unacceptable.
There are many organizations and people within Wisconsin (and beyond, of course) doing amazing work to see our culture's attitude toward LGBT people changed for the better. Still, there are too many fighting to send us all back to the Dark Ages simply because they fear and/or don't understand those who are different (or maybe all-too similar). It doesn't seem to matter who gets hurt along the way.
Gov. Walker, throwing in his lot with the latter groups, recently issued a proclamation in support of something called "National Marriage Week" (I mentioned this, rather snarkily, in a post last week).
It's not particularly surprising, of course, seeing as how Walker had previously voted for the amendment banning gay marriage and anything "substantially similar" in Wisconsin, and also vetoed an effort to provide benefits to same-sex partners of Milwaukee County employees. The man is not a friend to the gays (he is, however, a friend to matching sweater sets).
The event is a none-too-subtle crusade against gay marriage and divorce rights. Walker's support of it plays right into the very causes of the above studied negative effects on LGBT people. Backers of the man-woman-only marriage equation are harming their gay and lesbian neighbors and family members -- not just by denying them the equal rights inherent in their being human beings and Americans, but physically, by spreading a message of discrimination and rejection that bleeds through society as a whole.
BlueCheddar sums up the general purpose of NMW and its supporters well: "The message I get is that if some people are made uncomfortable by other people having full rights under the law, by all means, do not give those other people rights under the law."
I was always taught that America at least aspired to a far more equitable standard than that, though, and I'm sticking with it. I would hope that our elected representatives would, too, otherwise they should be quickly voted (or recalled) out.