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President Biden signs the “Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act”

‘Hate never goes away; it only hides under the rocks- All of us have to stop it’

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President Joe Biden. (Screen capture via NBC News)

In a Rose Garden ceremony at the White House Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed H.R. 55, the “Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act,” into law making lynching a federal hate crime.

The President was joined by civil rights leaders and members of Congress, including Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), who authored the bill in the House and the Vice President, Kamala Harris, who co-sponsored a version of the bill when she served in the U.S. Senate.

In their remarks the President and Vice-President recognized Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the lone two Black senators, for their work in getting the law passed by the Senate earlier this month by unanimous consent, meaning every senator signed off on it moving forward without objection.

President Biden Signs Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act Into Law:

Remarks by President Biden at Signing of H.R. 55, the “Emmett Till Antilynching Act”

Thank you.  It’s a little unusual to do the bill signing, not say anything and then speak, but that’s how we set it up. 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  I just signed into law the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, making lynching — (applause) — a federal hate crime for the first time in American history.

I want to thank Vice President Harris who was a key co-sponsor of this bill when she was a United States senator.  (Applause.)

And I also want to thank Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer and members of the Congress here today, especially Congressman Hoyer and Bobby Rush, Senator Dick Durbin and Cory Booker.  (Applause.)  I — I also want to thank Senator Tim Scott, who couldn’t be here today.

And the civil rights leaders gathered here today and, most of all, the family of Emmett Till and Ida B. Wells: Thank you for never giving up.  Never, ever giving up.  (Applause.)

Matter of fact, her [great]-granddaughter told me that her mother was here — when? —

MS. DUSTER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  — I mean, your [great]-grandmother was here — when? —

MS. DUSTER:  It was in 1898.

THE PRESIDENT:  In 1898, in order to make a case for the antilynching law.  It was over 100 years ago, in 1900, when a North Carolina Representative named George Henry White — the son of a slave; the only Black lawmaker in Congress at the time — who first introduced legislation to make lynching a federal crime.

Hundreds — hundreds of similar bills have failed to pass.

Over the years, several federal hate crime laws were enacted, including one I signed last year to combat COVID-19 hate crimes.  But no federal law — no federal law expressly prohibited lynching.  None.  Until today.  (Applause.)

One of the leading chronicles of our history of lynching is Bryan Stevenson, who happens to be a Delawarean from my home state, who wanted very much to be here today but he could not. 

He helped build the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama — America’s first site dedicated to understanding the legacy of lynching.

You know, his extensive research showed that between 1877 and 1950, more than 4,400 Black people were murdered by lynching, most in the South but some in the North as well.  That’s a lot of folks, man, and a lot of silence for a long time.

Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone — not everyone belongs in America and not everyone is created equal; terror to systematically undermine hard — hard-fought civil rights; terror not just in the dark of the night
but in broad daylight.

Innocent men, women, and children hung by nooses from trees.  Bodies burned and drowned and castrated.

Their crimes?  Trying to vote.  Trying to go to school.  To try and own a business or preach the Gospel.  False accusations of murder, arson, and robbery.  Simply being Black.

Often the crowds of white families gathered to celebrate the spectacle, taking pictures of the bodies and mailing them as postcards.

Emmett Till was an only child.  He grew up on the South Side of Chicago with his mother, Mamie, and grandparents and cousins.

In the summer of 1955, Emmett turned 14 years old, ready to start eighth grade in the fall.  Before school started, he wanted to visit his cousins in Mississippi.  So Emmett’s mom dropped him off at the train station in Chicago.  Her own family fled the Delta decades earlier, so she told him — she told him the unwritten rules he had to follow.  Quote, “Be very careful how you speak.  Say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no ma’am’, and do not hesitate to be — to humble yourself if you have to get down on your knees”.  End of quote.

That same speech, that same admonition — too many Black parents today still have to use that admonition.  They have to tell their children when it comes to encounters with the law enforcement.  You know, and so many other circumstances.

She kissed Emmett goodbye.  It was the last time she saw her son alive.

Days after he arrived in Mississippi, Emmett’s mutilated body was found in a river, barbed wire tied around his neck and a 75-pound cotton gin fan attached to that wire as he was thrown into the river.

Emmett’s mother — his mother demanded that her son be sent home so that his funeral in Chicago could be an open casket.

Here’s what she said: “Let the people see what I’ve seen.”  America and the world saw what she saw. 

Emmett Till was born nearly 40 years ago after the first antilynching law was introduced.  Although he was one of thousands who were lynched, his mother courage — his mother’s courage to show the world what was done to him energized the Civil Rights Movement. 

Exactly 100 days later, Rosa Parks was arrested on the bus in Montgomery.  Her statue sits in my office.  She said, “I thought of Emmett Till and I couldn’t go back.”  “I thought of Emmett Till and I couldn’t go back.” 

Dr. King often preached about, quote, “the crying voices of little Emmett Till, screaming from the rushes of the Mississippi.”

To the Till family: We remain in awe of your courage to find purpose through your pain.  To find purpose to through your pain.  But the law is not just about the past, it’s about the present and our future as well.

From the bullets in the back of Ahmaud Arbery to countless other acts of violence — countless victims known and unknown — the same racial hatred that drove the mob to hang a noose brought that mob carrying torches out of the fields of Charlottesville just a few years go.

Racial hate isn’t an old problem; it’s a persistent problem.  A persistent problem.  And I know many of the civil rights leaders here know, and you heard me say it a hundred times: Hate never goes away; it only hides.  It hides under the rocks.  And given just a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming.  But what stops it is all of us, not a few.  All of us have to stop it.

People like Ida B. Wells, one of the founders of the NAACP, established 100 years ago in response to racial terror across the country.  A brilliant, gifted writer, she exposed the barbaric nature of lyn- — of lynching as a tool to intimidate and subjugate Black Americans.

And her words, her courage, her convictions — she was trying to prevent the murders of Emmett Till and Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others — over 4,400 others. 

Ida B. — Ida B. Wells once said, quote, “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon the wrongs.”  “Turn the light of truth upon the wrongs.”

That’s what all of you have done, gathered in this Rose Garden, with this bill and so much more, including Ida B. Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster, whom I’m honored to introduce to mark this historic day.

Michelle, welcome to the White House, and welcome to the podium.  And as my mother would say: God love you, dear.

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Lindsey Graham: Same-sex marriage should be left to the states

Republican senator says issue a distraction from inflation

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said he still thinks the issue of same-sex marriage should be left to the states. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), seven years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide, said Sunday he still thinks the issue of gay nuptials should be left to the states.

Graham made the remarks during an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash in a rare televised bipartisan debate with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as the Senate was in the middle of voting on amendments for the Inflation Reduction Act.

When discussing the 6-3 conservative majority of the Supreme Court, Graham said consistent with the recent decision overturning Roe v. Wade justices could overturn other precedents, such as the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges in favor of same-sex marriage.

Asked point blank if he was saying it should be overturned, Graham said “no, I’m saying that I don’t think it’s going to be overturned.” Graham, however, had an infection his voice, suggesting same-sex marriage could be undone.

“Nor should it be?” asked Bash.

“Well, that would be up to the court,” he responded, then added: “I think states should decide the issue of marriage, and states should be decide the issue of abortion.”

When Bash brought up another case, Loving v. Virginia, the 1965 case that overturned states bans on interracial marriage, and asked if that should be revisited as well, Graham replied, “no.”

Graham quickly moved on to tamp down any expectation the would address the issue of same-sex marriage, saying fears the court would revisit the issue are unfounded and meant as a distraction from issues such as inflation.

“But if you’re going to ask me to have the federal government take over defining marriage, I’m going to say no,” Graham added.

Graham’s remarks are consistent with what he told the Washington Blade in 2015 when asked about same-sex marriage as the issue was being adjudicated by the Supreme Court. However, they contrast to his support for a Federal Marriage Amendment that was pending before Congress during the Bush administration and would have made a ban on same-sex marriage nationwide part of the U.S. Constitution. Graham was not asked about his views on now defunct idea of an amendment during the CNN interview.

h/t The Independent

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Biden on freeing Brittney Griner: ‘I’m hopeful. We’re working very hard.’

U.S. puts deal on table as Griner sentenced to nine years

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President Biden said he was hopeful about freeing Brittney Griner on Friday.

President Biden made brief comments on Friday expressing optimism about securing the release of Brittney Griner the day a Russian judge sentenced the lesbian basketball player to nine years in a penal colony.

“I’m hopeful. We’re working very hard,” Biden said in response to a shouted question from a reporter following a bill signing at the White House.

Griner has been detained in Russia since February on charges of entering the country with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil and was later arrested on drug charges. The Biden administration has proposed a prisoner swap with Russia for the release of Griner in exchange for a Russian arms dealer in U.S. custody.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday the optimism Biden expressed was based on general feelings as opposed to a new development in negotiations.

“He’s the president, he has to feel hopeful,” Jean-Pierre said. “This is something that is important to him. I don’t think — if he had said something else — it would have not, you want to be sure you zero in, he’s focused on the task that is at hand. His team is working on this, his national security team, you’ve heard from Secretary Blinken, you’ve heard from us. This is something — again, has been top of mind, bringing U.S. nationals home who are being wrongfully detained, who are being held hostage has been a priority of his. There’s no other place but to be hopeful and to do the work that we need to do to get this done.”

Asked if there was any specific development, Jean-Pierre replied, “No. I wouldn’t read into it. I think as president, he’s doing what presidents do, giving hope.”

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House Dems seek IRS review of anti-LGBTQ organization’s tax status

Family Research Council designated ‘association of churches’

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Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) is among those leading a call for an investigation into the Family Research Council.

A group of House Democrats, in the wake of a report finding the Family Research Council has been granted a special tax status as an “association of churches,” is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the prominent anti-LGBTQ organization’s designation under the tax code.

The 38 House Democrats — led by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) — articulate the call in an Aug. 1 letter to the IRS, arguing the Family Research Council is “primarily an advocacy organization and not a church.”

“We understand the importance of religious institutions to their congregants and believe that religious freedom is a cherished American value and constitutional right,” the letter says. “We also believe that our tax code must be applied fairly and judiciously. Tax-exempt organizations should not be exploiting tax laws applicable to churches to avoid public accountability and the IRS’s examination of their activities.”

The impetus for the letter was a July report in ProPublica revealing the Family Research Council — which pushes for legislation against gender reassignment surgery for youth, filed friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of overturning of Roe v. Wade, and pushed for exemptions for individuals refusing to provide services for LGBTQ people over religious objections — is considered an “association of churches” with Tony Perkins, president of the anti-LGBTQ group, as its religious leader.

According to ProPublica, the Family Research Council is among a number of social conservative groups in recent years that have sought and been granted tax status as churches, which shields them from financial scrutiny. As a result, Family Research Council won’t be required to issue an IRS 990 detailing its finances and salaries of key staff members, nor can the IRS initiate an audit of the organization without approval from a high-ranking Treasury Department official, ProPublica reports.

The letter from House Democrats seeks from the IRS: 1) An expeditious review of the status of the Family Research Council; 2) Investigation on whether other political advocacy organizations have obtained church status, but do not satisfy the IRS requirements for churches; 3) Improvement of the review process for organizations seeking church status to ensure that organizations that aren’t churches can’t abuse the tax code; and 4) a determination on whether existing guidance is sufficient to prevent abuse and whether more congressional actions are necessary.

The Washington Blade has placed a call with the Family Research Council and the Internal Revenue Service seeking comment on the letter and calls to review the organization’s tax status.

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