Kentucky Senate Seat up for Grabs in 2014?

Kentucky has gotten a lot of attention recently because of Mitch McConnell’s freak out at the rumors of Ashley Judd running against him in 2014. Honestly, the entire debacle has been very amusing to me. Though, in the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of backlash from Democrats inside and outside of the state. Their reaction can be summed up like this:

“Seriously, Kentucky? For the first time Mitch McConnell is worried about reelection, and you’ve chosen an actress to run against him? You’re making fools out of yourself–be serious!”

And that annoys me.

No, we haven’t chosen an actress to run against the heretofore impossible-to-beat incumbent. You’re taking it as seriously as Mitch McConnell, and you’re taking all the fun out of this situation.

Pay attention: McConnell has been the heretofore impossible-to-beat incumbent, and he’s freaking the fuck out right now. McConnell has been a pain in the country’s ass for years now–can you step back for a second and try to imagine how it might be to have this PITA as one of your Senators? Just imagine for a few seconds, I’ll wait.

Got it? Okay.

Now. Stay with me here. Basketball is a really big deal in Kentucky. The NCAA basketball tournament is like a month-long holiday in Kentucky. In Kentucky, you’re either a Cardinals fan, or a Wildcats fan. You’re either Blue, or Red. Ashley Judd is a Wildcats fan. That’s a big deal. A celebrity, or anyone who is a Big Deal jumps into the UK vs UL fandom becomes part of the family. They’ve become one of us. Judd regularly attends UK games. So, the UK half of Kentucky kind of loves Ashley Judd. She’s a Big Deal, and she Gets It. Validation and all that.

Now.

A member of the Kentucky collective, messing with the head of the likes of Mitch McConnell, a guy who holds a lot of power, but does nothing for Kentucky? Who has embarrassed us on the national and international stage? We love it. Think of it as a grown-up pranking that mean old guy in the neighborhood who’s constantly harassing all of the neighborhood kids, while all of the kids are there to see. It’s hilarious. Vindication. It kind of makes your year.

Will Ashley Judd actually run? Don’t know. We don’t really care at the moment. We’re too busy soaking up the glory that is McConnell realizing he could lose his job, his power, and his gravy train, that he’s been milking at Kentucky’s expense.

So, naysayers. Be quiet for a moment. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Don’t ruin the moment.

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Mitch McConnell Writes Letters: Act Two

Not long ago, I wrote to Mitch McConnell, one of my Senators, to voice my objections to the Blunt Amendment. The amendment, if you recall, would have allowed any employer to refuse health insurance coverage for birth control. Thankfully, the amendment failed. However, I’m only just now receiving a response my from esteemed representative.

This is not the first time I’ve written to McConnell. This is the first time, however, that he acknowledges my disagreement. In the past, his letters assume the recipient agrees with his views, and assures the reader that he will fight (fight!) to represent my interests in the Senate. I could only conclude that no one read my letter at all.

This time, his letter gives me background on the issue. (Uh, Mitch? I know. Why the fuck do you think I’m writing?) Then, he gives his version of events, presenting them as undoubtedly the objective truth:

“You don’t have to belong to any particular faith to see if that if government can violate the religious rights of one group, then surely it can violate those of others.”

He concludes with a condescending acknowledgement of our disagreement on the issue, before he thanks me for sharing my “opinions” with him anyway.

McConnell’s letter highlights his utterly incapability of distinguishing between religious freedom, employees rights, and the fact that institutions are not people.

McConnell fails to realize the employees of faith-based institutions do not subscribe to the institution’s religious affiliation merely because they’re on the payroll. I know it’s difficult for Mitch to believe, but some people work for companies they don’t believe in, that they don’t even like, because they need the paycheck.

McConnell is utterly incapable of recognizing the fundamental difference between believing in a religious system, and adhering to its moral codes in your own personal behavior, and attempting to force those under your control to adhere to them, too. That’s not religious freedom, that’s tyranny.

Newsflash: 98% of Catholic women have used birth control. Religions are not like the Republican Party. It’s not a “follow our orders to the minutiae or GTFO” deal. Spiritual beliefs are deeply personal, intimate, and individualistic. Ever notice how many denominations there are in Christianity alone, Mitch? No one person’s faith is going to look like another’s, even if they share the same label. That is our right in this country–to believe whatever we want.

How many times, and how many ways do I have to say that an employer, especially a faith-based one, has no right to impose and enforce its beliefs on their employees?

It is the height of arrogance, not to mention irony, to accuse the Obama administration of crossing “a dangerous line.”

Oh, and this?

“I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed to overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote. Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing. For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish, this mandate should be repealed.”

I was disappointed that Senator Blunt’s amendment failed.

I bet you were.

overcome the threat of a filibuster by a mostly partisan vote.

How’d you like a taste of your own medicine? I must say, that’s a pretty pathetic potshot, considering you and your GOP friends have been filibustering every possible piece of legislation, even if you agreed with it, just to make the President look bad. Check the mirror before you whine about partisanship, you hypocritical old fart.

Americans decided at our nation’s founding that the government cannot tell someone whether their religion is worth believing.

That’s not what happened here, and you know it. I object to your attempting to give my employer the right to dictate what my health insurance will or will not cover–forcing me to adhere to my employer’s religious beliefs. My employer can believe whatever the fuck he wants. He can’t impose that on me, and neither can you. The government’s job is to protect people like me from people like you.

For the protection of everyone who enjoys the freedom to worship as they wish,

Wait, are you actually acknowledging that not everyone has the freedom to worship as they wish? I know you’re not, and that’s a shame.

this mandate should be repealed.

No.

Postscript: Uh, Mitch? You know you sent that letter to me twice, right? And you know you referred to me as “Mr.” in the first letter? I know you don’t really read correspondence from constituents that disagree with you, but you should pay close enough attention to, at the very least, get my name and my gender correct.

Just saying. And I’ll be passing along your little boo-boo to other voters. I’m sure Kentuckians will be very interested to learn just how little attention you pay to your constituency.

To Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Genderqueer Teens in Kentucky

You are loved.

You are worthy of love.

You deserve happiness.

You deserve to be safe, at home, at school, on the street.

You’re not evil.

You’re not an abomination. On the contrary. You are a beautiful person, with hopes, with dreams.

You’re strong. And you know? It’s okay to be weak, too. It’s okay to be angry, to be frustrated, to feel wronged. It’s okay to cry. You’re not the only one.

You’re not alone.

Far from it.

Don’t give up. Love yourself. Take care of yourself.

Just know, that you’re not alone. Know that you are loved.

Kentucky Needs Better Protections From Bullying

This is why we need HB336 to pass. Now.

“A 15-year-old high school student took her own life this week. Her parents said she was the victim of bullying.

After the teen’s untimely death, other parents have come forward, saying their kids have also been bullied at Livingston County Schools and they’re calling on the school district to make major changes.

They said the school is failing when it comes to protecting their kids and they want new and stricter policies to stop bullying. They also want better counseling services, so that no student has to feel like suicide is the only option.”

My heart breaks for this young woman. It didn’t have to end this way for her.

You know the anti-bullying bill, HB336? It was rejected by the committee on March 13th, less than a week before the young woman from Livingston County took her life. She’s not the only teenager in Kentucky to do so.

“Sam Denham, 13, an eighth-grader from a Northern Kentucky middle school, and Miranda Campbell, 14, a high school freshman from Hopkinsville, committed suicide in the past five months to escape bullying, they said.”

No one deserves to be bullied. No one deserves to be harassed. Or assaulted. Or terrorized.

And you know what? If we’re not going to allow these kids to defend themselves from bullies without getting punished right alongside their attacker, then we (and I mean EVERYONE here) have to do everything we can to protect them.

“Rep. C.B. Embry Jr., R-Morgantown, said the state already has sufficient laws against bullying. He expressed doubt that any additional laws could help.”

Clearly, we don’t.

Here’s the list of the House Education committee members. Contact them to let them know that we won’t let this go. Contact the members I’ve tagged below, in particular, to let them know how reprehensible their comments are.

2012 Immigrant and Refugee Rights Advocacy Day in Kentucky

The Fairness Campaign is sponsoring Citizen Lobbying days through April 5th. Today’s focus is on Immigrant and Refugee rights.

The flier for the event is here.

Here’s what’s going on:

When: Wednesday, 3/21 at 9:00 a.m. (carpool from the Fairness office at 8:00 a.m.)
Where: Kentucky State Capitol (702 Capital Ave, Frankfort, KY)

Tell legislators why they should safeguard the rights of immigrant and refugee communities! View a schedule of events below and join the Fairness Campaign carpoll at 8:00 a.m.
9:00 AM – Participants come to Room 125 of the Capitol Annex to register on-site and/ or sign in with organizers.

9:15 – Noon – Participants will be placed in small groups and asked to go find and talk with legislators. Participants will have postcards, pens and legislative reports. The post card is to leave a message with the legislators you can’t find or to write a thank you to the legislators with whom you DO have an opportunity to talk!

Noon – 1:00  PM – When participants have talked to everyone possible, returned reports to the event organizers and left postcards with legislators/staff, there will be a lunch break in the cafeteria. Lunch will be on your own, so please plan accordingly. Prices are very reasonable in the cafeteria.

1:00 PM – 1:30 PM – The group will gather at the Rotunda for the press conference.

2:00 PM – Capitol Building – The House and Senate convene. The official Advocacy Day ends with the press conference, but participants are invited to stay and watch the full House or Senate in action. Organizers will have 20 gallery passes for those participants that want to stay after the press conference.”

The Fairness Campaign is a really awesome organization that’s working to change things for the better for marginalized communities here in Kentucky. You can sign up for e-mail updates here.

I’ve worked with them before, back in 2010 when WKU students and faculty were working to get same-sex partner benefits for university employees. We had been working, protesting, and lobbying for weeks on this campaign to get equal benefits.

Well, we got them. The protest we’d planned turned into a celebration. It was a great day.

If you’ve been looking for a progressive organization to get involved in, here in the Bluegrass State, the Fairness Campaign is one you should check out.

Late notice? Citizen Lobby days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays through April 4th. Can’t make it, or not in Kentucky? You can contact Kentucky Senators here and members of Kentucky’s House of Representatives here.

Anti-Discrimination Protections for LGBTs in Kentucky

The Kentucky legislature has two bills in committee–in the House and Senate, to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups under the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The bills, SB69 and HB188, were introduced on January 3rd, and haven’t gone anywhere since.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, the Fairness Campaign, Kentucky Fairness Alliance, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and Lexington Fairness have joined together to form the Fairness Coalition. The Fairness Coalition is beginning a new campaign to educate the public, and push the House and Senate to pass this legislation.

This commercial will be broadcast across the state:

Next Thursday, February 22rd at 1:30pm EST, the Fairness Coalition and supporters of LGBT rights will rally in the Capitol building in Frankfort to show support for protections for LGBT folks.

Edit: I got the date and time of the rally wrong. It is on February 22nd, at 1:30pm.

Interview on Sunday Night Safran

Earlier this week, I was interviewed for the Australian radio program, Sunday Night Safran, on Triple J. It’s broadcasting live at the moment–it’ll be available as a podcast tomorrow. When the podcast goes live, I will update this post with a direct link to it.

Edit: The link is up! Check it out here. My interview begins about twenty-one minutes in, and lasts for about fifteen minutes. If you have the time, listen all the way through. The guest before me had a fascinating story.

Recap: I was interviewed because of my position as a pro-gun-rights feminist.

Correction/Clarification: In the interview I said one could not own a handgun until the age of twenty-one. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) A person over the age of eighteen may own a handgun if it was given as a gift, but may not carry it until they reach the age of twenty-one. Edit: Felons are also prohibited from buying and carrying.

Other Comments: The other guest, Sofia Stefanovic, said something at the end of the segment that I would very much like to respond to: she said she’d be afraid, were she to own and carry a gun, that she’d grab it and point it at someone when she was irritated or frustrated with them. She used as an example how she’d lobbed a pen at one of the hosts when he said something that irritated her.

I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to this, because I’m sure it’s a very common fear.

When you carry, you are very acutely aware at all times of your weapon. You are aware of its power. You are aware that you can frighten, hurt, and kill someone with your weapon. Your handgun is not a thing you ever treat lightly–certainly (and obviously) when handling it, but also when carrying.

I can only describe it as there being an invisible bubble around your weapon. Should I get the urge to throw something at an annoying friend, my hand would never stray to my weapon. I’d be more likely, should I get the urge, to grab for the pen. However. When I carry, I am also very aware of my behavior, my body language, my facial expression, my language, and my actions. I am extremely careful not to do or say anything that may be construed by others as being a threat to their safety. I am more reserved. I moderate my hand gestures. I watch my tone. I am careful to be polite. If my favorite song plays while I’m grocery shopping, I’m less likely to be silly and dance to the beat. I make eye contact and smile. I avoid resting my hands on my hips.

Being a responsible gun owner begins before one ever purchases their first gun: you reflect, considering your own maturity, impulsivity, and temperament. If you find yourself unable to be completely, 100% sure that you will handle your gun with all the respect it demands, then you don’t purchase a gun in the first place.

That self-reflection doesn’t end there. It’s a continuing process. It’s something I do every time before I reach for my Ruger. Carrying a gun is an enormous responsibility. It is a heavy weight on one’s shoulders. If I find that I do not have the strength to carry that burden that day, I leave my weapon at home. I close my eyes and hope I don’t need it, every time I decide to leave it at home. Because you know what? Some days I just want to pretend that the world is safe. I want to be a carefree 20-something woman. I want to be silly and dance in the produce section at the grocery. I want to be passionate and accompany my speech with grand hand gestures.

But if, during one of these reflections, I ever found that I might pull my weapon in any situation that does not threaten my life and my safety, I would sell my gun–because I would no longer be trustworthy or responsible enough to call myself a gun owner. I hope that day never comes. But it is something I must ask myself, in order to honestly call myself a feminist, responsible gun owner.

All in all, I had a fabulous time on the show–and I’m absolutely delighted and very grateful for the opportunity. I can’t wait to discuss it with my readers!

Logistical note: When the podcast goes live, I will post the time stamp marking when my interview begins. I will also do my best to get a transcript up as soon as possible, which will also be edited into this post. Edit: I plan on working on the transcript tomorrow. It is rather late here at the moment!

I may also add other comments (or edit ones already written) once I can listen to the broadcast. Memory is a funny thing, after all. I’ll note any changes and edits for those who may read the original post and return later!