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Vitter's Family Values

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vitterI was living in New Orleans when the David Vitter prostitution scandal first broke, and many of my progressive friends wondered when Vitter would resign — especially since a year earlier Vitter said that he was “a conservative who opposes radically redefining marriage, the most important social institution in human history.” It turns out that despite cheating on his wife and breaking the law, Vitter would not only refuse to resign, but would be cruising to re-election a few years later. It turns out that Republican voters don’t actually hold Republican office-holders to their own professed standards:

Vitter is clearly being boosted by President Obama’s unpopularity in the state, and by Melancon’s low name recognition. But a bigger factor may be a peculiar form of partisanship.

Within the past year, PPP has canvassed Republican voters in three states represented by scandal-dogged GOP politicians: Vitter in Louisiana, Sen. John Ensign in Nevada and Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. (Ensign and Sanford both had extramarital affairs.) In all three cases, the support of Republican voters remained solid. Last year, when Vitter’s embarrassment was fresher in voters’ minds, Republican voters in his home state still gave him a 62-19 approval rating.

AIDS in D.C.

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At the D.C. gay pride festival this past weekend, I heard a lot of anti-Fenty rhetoric regarding the mayor’s supposed lack of attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Having been a D.C. resident for only a week or so, I’ll defer to others on Fenty’s performance, though there is some evidence that he has on at least one occasion inappropriately used the issue as a bargaining chip in his battles with the City Council. But Fenty has dealt with some of the most severe failings of the District’s AIDS Office since his term began and called HIV/AIDS one of “most serious problems” facing the city. And he’s right.

At least 3% of D.C. residents have HIV or AIDS, and officials believe that figure significantly underestimates the true number of those affected, as the estimate is based only on those who have been tested. For purposes of comparison, the CDC characterizes a population with a 1% incidence of HIV as experiencing a “generalized and severe” epidemic, and Shannon L. Hader, director of the District’s HIV/AIDS Administration, notes that the District’s HIV rate is “on par with Uganda.” The most recent data shows HIV/AIDS is on the rise throughout the U.S., but the District has the highest AIDS case rate in the country and new AIDS diagnoses are twice as high in D.C. than in New York and five times higher than Detroit.

The Activist's Dilemma

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Should I be preparing to work in the the LGBT rights movement after graduation?  Should you?

Thumbnail image for human-rights-campaign.gifSame-sex marriage is an extremely salient national political issue, a idea that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.  Enormous strides are being made in particular issue areas, such as gender identity protections and Pres. Obama's executive order directing hosipitals to allow visits by same-sex partners (a measure that is long overdue).  Major legislation that the LGBT community has been pushing for years, such a the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," is finally on the verge of passage.  By all accounts, it is an extremely significant and vibrant moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement.

And yet, I feel extremely conflicted towards the LGBT movement establishment and question whether I want to make a career out of LGBT advocacy.

How important are LGBT rights?

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Last night, Princeton hosted an outstanding panel on same-sex marriage, and I had the opportunity to ask a question about the upcoming Supreme Court nomination.  Most observers agree that within the next decade, the issue of same-sex marriage will be taken up by the Court, probably in the context of a constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act or Proposition 8.  As such, it is important for LGBT rights advocates to demand that any potential nominee not only express support for favorable precedents such as Lawrence v. Texas, but also to have authored academic or judicial opinions that make clear that he or she rejects some of the more spurious and contradictory religious justifications for discrimination.

The first answer I received was a caricature of an argument I've heard dozens of times: while we should certainly ask these types of questions, the lack of track record on LGBT issues should not be disqualifying -- because there are other issues at stake in the upcoming nomination battle that are "more important" than LGBT rights.

Well, so what?