Ben

Ben & Jerry?s is coming for Australian?s taste buds, announcing a pledge that no one in Oz can order two scoops of the same flavor until marriage equality becomes law of the land Down Under.

Ben & Jerry?s currently operates 26 stores across the nation, and is placing the ban on same-flavored scoops as a statement of opposition to the country?s stance on same-sex marriage, were it is currently illegal for two men or two women to wed. The ?ban? is part of the company?s push for global LGBTQ rights.

Currently 70 percent of Australians support same-sex marriage, and the push for its legalization is an ongoing conversation in the country.

?We are proud to be standing alongside The Equality Campaign to continue the fight for marriage equality in Australia,? Imogen Rugg, Ben & Jerry?s Australia spokesperson, said in a statement to HuffPost. ?Ben & Jerry?s has a long and proud history of commitment to social justice, including LGBTQI rights and marriage equality. This commitment is grounded in our company?s core values and an unshakable belief that everyone deserves full and equal civil rights.? 

In conjunction with the ban on same-flavored scoops, Ben & Jerry?s has also established a postal system of sorts across its Australian stores. Customers and supporters of marriage equality can write messages advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage, with Ben & Jerry?s staff prepared to deliver their messages directly to local MPs. 

Ben & Jerry?s aims to have all messages from customers delivered before the final parliamentary session of the season on June 13th.

Ben & Jerry?s has long used its product to create high-visibility statements of support in the fight for LGBTQ rights on a global level. In 2015, the company renamed its beloved Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor to ?I Dough, I Dough? in celebration of America legalizing same-sex marriage. The company made a similar move in 2012 in the UK, renaming their ?Oh! My! Apple Pie!? flavor ?Apple-y Ever After? in support of coalitions pushing for the legalization of same-sex marriage throughout England.

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Betsy DeVos Is An Enemy Of LGBTQ People. Always Has Been. Always Will Be.

The video of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos confirming that she would allow private schools to receive federal dollars while they blatantly discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students is simply stunning. Congresswoman Katherine M. Clark, a Democrat from Massachusetts, asked DeVos point blank in a hearing yesterday if she would allow federal funds to go to a school that bans LGBT students or students with gay or lesbian parents, and she used the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Indiana as an example.

DeVos, in an eerily calm manner, said that it would be up to the states to make the decision to allow ?parents to make choices? when it comes to putting their kids in a a hostile anti-LGBTQ environment, where lies and distortions that lead to bullying and violence are taught to children about queer people, while receiving federal money in the form of vouchers.

DeVos, after mentioning something vague about civil rights protections being ‘broadly applicable,’ still deferred to ‘parents making choices’ as the most important principle.

Even when Clark raised the issue of a school that might discriminate against African-Americans, DeVos, after mentioning something vague about civil rights protections being ?broadly applicable,? still deferred to ?parents making choices? as the most important principle. DeVos made it clear that it was up to the state to decide, and, as Clark pointed out, couldn?t give ?one example,? in which a state?s discriminatory practice in education would be stood up to by the Department of Education in the form of withholding money. 

This is the same Betsy DeVos who some media outlets told us just before her confirmation hearings, had gone through some sort of transformation, or was always, in fact, supportive of LGBTQ rights and was simply misunderstood. It was an odd, suspiciously convenient narrative coming at a time when she needed it. DeVos had been portrayed in previous weeks ? ever since her name was floated as Secretary of Education ? rightly as the Michigan Amway billionaire whose family has contributed millions of dollars to anti-LGBTQ groups and causes.

But now, here was reporter Jeremy Peters in a New York Times piece in late January, headlined, ?Betsy DeVos, a Friend of L.G.B.T. Rights? Past Colleagues Say Yes,? reporting that DeVos? ?support for her gay friends and for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights are a largely unknown but deep-seated aspect of her history, dating as far back as the late 1990s.? The piece centered around DeVos having given a glowing reference to a GOP colleague, Republican operative Greg McNalley, and his husband, when they filed paperwork to adopt a child in 2015. Wrote Peters: 

This aspect of Ms. DeVos?s personal story is not only at odds with the public image of her and her family as prominent financiers of conservative causes, but it also stands out in a nascent administration with a number of members who have a history of opposing gay rights. A Senate confirmation vote on her nomination is scheduled for this week.

DeVos was one of the most embattled of Donald Trump?s nominees. She squeaked in, with two Republicans defecting and Vice President Mike Pence breaking a tie. So that Times story, picked up by other outlets, certainly helped her. It would not be the first time the Times had been seemingly used by Trump in a moment of need, wittingly or not: There was the infamous story by Maggie Haberman in April of 2016, about Trump himself, headlined ?Donald Trump?s More Accepting Views on Gay Issues Set Him Apart in G.O.P.,? and of course there was the consequential story late in the campaign that  threw cold water on reports of a serious and ongoing investigation of the Trump campaign for possibly colluding with Russia, using unnamed sources in the FBI. (The Times has yet to offer an explanation for these stories.)

DeVos has said in the past that her she wanted public education to ‘advance God?s kingdom.’

As with Trump himself, just because Betsy DeVos might help out her well-off Republican gay friends ? who might return the favor by helping her in other ways ? doesn?t mean she?s not devoted to her family?s longtime goals, nor to putting religious beliefs before LGBTQ rights. While she gave McNalley and his husband a reference letter in their successful effort to adopt a child as gay parents, she also financially contributed to the campaign of GOP legislator, Andrea LaFontaine ? a zealous religious conservative ? who spearheaded a draconian Michigan law passed in 2015, weeks before the Supreme Court?s landmark marriage equality ruling, that allows state-funded faith-based adoption agencies to turn away gay and lesbian couples based on their sexual orientation

That law seems right in line with DeVos? statements yesterday, refusing to rule out giving federal money to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students and parents. DeVos has said in the past that her she wanted public education to ?advance God?s kingdom.?  

But she has tried in recent years to differentiate herself from her family?s donations of millions of dollars ? via both her husband?s parents? foundation and her own parents? foundation ? to groups like the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, which has claimed that overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act amounted to a ?fatwa,? and the anti-LGBTQ National Organization for Marriage. This, even though she was listed as a vice president of her mother?s foundation, which is a major donor to anti-LGBTQ hate groups Focus on the Family and Family Research Council. At her confirmation hearings, DeVos called it a ?clerical error.?

In the Times piece from January, DeVos?s defenders point to what they couch as her quiet advocacy for LGBTQ rights and DeVos claimed during her confirmation hearings, ?I fully embrace equality? and rejected ?conversion therapy,? which is promoted by many of the groups to which her family donates.

But once in office, DeVos went right along with the Trump administration action of rescinding guidelines for the treatment of transgender students, put in place by the Obama administration. According to unnamed sources, again in the Times, DeVos fought with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about keeping the guidelines, a battle she lost.

But there she was at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, denying any rift, and saying she believed the guidelines were an example of ?executive overreach?on the part of the Obama administration. And now we have her clear statements on allowing schools to get federal funds even if they discriminate against LGBTQ people ? or any group.

Whatever Betsy DeVos might or might not truly believe really doesn?t matter. It is her public statements, and her actions, that are the only important barometers. And so far, she?s proven to be an enemy of LGBTQ people.

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Paul Simon

When Paul Simon stopped by the CBS ?Late Show? on Wednesday night, he and host Stephen Colbert gave one of his classic tunes a makeover to make it more fitting for an era when Donald Trump is president.

In a segment taped backstage, Colbert told Simon that ?The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin? Groovy)? was one of his favorites. 

?I loathe that song,? Simon replied. ?It just feels naive. It doesn?t feel like 2017.?

As he tried to demonstrate what was wrong with the song, Colbert joined in, and soon, the two were giving the old tune some groovy new lyrics.  

Check it out above. 

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Trump’s Budget Escalates His War On People Of Color

?Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ?the least of these.?? ?Martin Luther King Jr.

Some readers thought I went too far by calling policies pushed by the Trump administration and Congress a war on Americans of color. But the president?s new budget proposal shows it?s even worse than I thought.

Even some Republicans have been rightly horrified at how the administration?s proposed budget cuts so much of what?s good, decent and useful that the federal government does, from food assistance (cut by a staggering $193 billion over 10 years) to Medicaid. But we can?t forget that this budget targets some groups more than others, and the attack on Americans of color has never been more overt.

Those massive Medicaid cuts, for example, will hurt millions who depend on the program for basic health care. Because people of color are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance and, thanks to America?s ongoing racial wealth gap, have less money with which to buy insurance, 58 percent of the Medicaid population is non-white.

But Trump?s proposed health cuts go far beyond Medicaid. They target disease prevention efforts at the CDC as well as vital programs that help train young people from diverse backgrounds to work in health professions. This not only cuts off a pathway out of poverty, it also means that blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans will be less likely to see a health provider who understands their community and culture, leading to worse care.

Massive cuts to affordable housing and other programs run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would also disproportionately hurt low-income communities of color. When these cuts were first floated back in March, housing advocates called them ?unconscionable,? and nothing has changed that situation. For example, Community Development Block Grants, which help struggling neighborhoods with needs ranging from infrastructure improvements to housing assistance, would be wiped out completely.

On the financial front, the Trump budget would gradually defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created largely because of predatory lending that targeted black, Latino and Asian communities in the run-up to the 2008 crash. The budget plan also attacks a number of programs that have been crucial to small, minority-owned businesses.

For example, the budget proposal caps the Community Development Financial Institution Fund, a vital lifeline for community development banks, credit unions, and mission-based lenders ? institutions that are often the only feasible source of capital for minority-owned small businesses. It would also wipe out the Minority Business Development Agency, which runs programs and services to better equip minority-owned firms to expand and create jobs in their communities. Because these firms tend to be smaller in size than white-owned firms and have less access to conventional sources of credit and capital, CDFIs and the MBDA have played a crucial role in strengthening this sector of our economy. Cutting them will cost jobs, and most of those jobs will be in communities of color.

Environmental cuts will also disproportionately hurt communities of color, as these communities ? too often used as toxic dumping grounds ? consistently suffer from the worst pollution problems. The Environmental Protection Agency?s Environmental Justice program would disappear completely, Native American pollution control programs would be slashed by nearly a quarter, Superfund toxic waste site cleanup would be cut by $330 million and grants to state and local air pollution control districts would be cut by 30 percent.

Also facing complete elimination is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families keep the lights and heat on. Until Americans of color catch up with their white counterparts in levels of employment, income and wealth, cuts to programs that alleviate poverty will always hit them the worst.

And, in one final bit of pointless cruelty, Trump?s proposed budget contains a provision that would make it far easier for the administration to withhold funds from sanctuary cities. Trump administration officials justify this as a crackdown on crime, but research shows that sanctuary cities ? in which officials follow the law but don?t go beyond it in assisting with deportations ? have lower crime rates than cities without sanctuary policies.

While the Trump administration budget literally contains something to hurt every American, it?s our communities who will be hurt first and worst if this atrocity passes.

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