March 6, 2011

Thank A Soldier!

Posted in News at 5:23 am by brittanylschmidt

While freedom of speech is a natural-born right for all citizens of America, many have been disappointed with those who take advantage of it in the wrong way.  On March 2, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to Freedom of Speech, siding with a group of Westboro Baptist church members in Kansas who hold anti-gay protests at soldier funerals.  The Supreme Court will not allow the members of the church to be sued because they are protected under the First Amendment, which includes the right to Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.

In 2006, Albert Snyder sued a Baptist church in Topeka, Kansas for disgracing his son’s funeral, who was an Iraq soldier killed at the age of 20. The Baptist church members held an anti-gay protest just outside the funeral area holding signs that read, “Thank God for dead soldiers.”  These protesters have been traveling around the U.S. protesting in multiple different states surrounding fallen soldier funerals.

Snyder was originally granted $5 million dollars, but was quickly reversed when the members of the church insisted they were practicing their First Amendment.  According to David Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. insisted that if the protests are conducted in a peaceful manner, they are protected and there is nothing they can do.

“Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro.  It is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible. But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner.”- Roberts

The members of Westboro Baptist church think soldiers are being killed because God is trying to get revenge on the ills of American society.  Fred Phelps and Margie Phelps are the leaders of the church and strongly believe this nation has crossed every line of God’s standards and are trying to uphold the standards of God through anti-gay protesting.

“When you have a public funeral and you broadcast to the nation that dead soldier is a hero and that God is blessing America, we will be there and tell you that God is cursing America.”- Margie Phelps

As an American, I understand that our freedom and liberties did not come at a low price.  Our history has shown that thousands of soldiers have given their lives to protect this country and preserve the rights of every American citizen, specifically Freedom of Speech.  The freedom to stand up and speak about what you believe in, but what happens when people use their freedom of speech to disgrace those who fought for it?

I cannot even begin to explain how disgusted I feel after reading about Westboro Baptist church members view of America.

I don’t understand how they can dishonor and disgrace soldiers who have given their lives for their freedom, so that they can have the right to speak and protest.

I urge you to watch this video about the protestors and develop your own opinion after hearing the hateful words directly from the Baptist church members mouth. It hurts the worst to see them smile while saying these negative things.  

It seems completely contradictory and ignorant of them to fight against those who gave them their rights in the first place.

It is really hard to justify the Supreme Court ruling on this lawsuit.  No one should have to go through what Albert Snyder’s family went through trying to give their son a peaceful burial.  I think the Freedom of Speech needs to be protected, but it seems immoral and  disrespectful to allow anti-gay protestors to speak their mind at a fallen soldiers funeral.  These soldiers should be held to the highest respect and thanked for serving our country and protecting our freedom.

Wisconsin, along with Indiana, Oklahoma, and Missouri, passed laws limiting protests at funerals.  Many other states are looking into passing laws but want to make sure they are compliant with the First Amendment.

These protesters have left a horrible imprint on the minds of family and friends after disgracing their loved one at  peaceful funeral services.  No ones funeral should ever be interrupted by angry, American hating soldiers, especially those who have fought to keep America safe.  I understand the Supreme Court was protecting the First Amendment of the Westboro Baptist church protestors, but I wish they could have done something else.

My father has taught me to thank and respect those who have fought for this country.

When he sees a soldier walking through a store, he makes it his job to thank them and tell them they are greatly appreciated.  I urge everyone to do the same!

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February 27, 2011

Obama Fights for LGBT Equality

Posted in News at 5:18 am by brittanylschmidt

When President Obama took office in 2008, he created a gay-rights agenda that would fight for equal rights for the LGBT Community.  While the LGBT Community is starting to see Obama’s promises come true, such as repealing the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell‘ policy and passing the Matthew Shepard’s Hate Crimes Act, his new decision to stop support of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 gains more support and hope from LGBT Community than ever before.

You will see a time in which we as a nation finally recognize relationships between two men or two women as just as real and admirable as relationships between a man and a woman.-President Obama

Late this month, Obama declared the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which bans recognition of same-sex marriages and allows states to refuse recognition of same-sex marriages, as unconstitutional and urges the Justice Department to stop defending it in court.

According to Charlie Savage and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times journalists, Obama favors civil unions and maintains a nuanced position on same-sex marriages.  Same-sex advocates suggest that Obama will soon embrace their cause due to his administrations new stance.  John Aravosis, founder of Americablog.com, said,

“I think the gay community got to him. I’m not convinced we got to his heart, but I think we got to his political head.”

I think John Aravosis is correct when he says the gay community has Obama’s political mind because Obama is continuing to support and aid the LGBT Community in many different ways. However, I don’t think it is correct to say they don’t have his heart.  Even if the LGBT Community doesn’t have his whole heart, they still have his unwavering support, which I think is much more important.

Yes, I do think Obama has a good heart and cares deeply for this country, but the important thing to remember is he believes in equal opportunity for all, no matter what your gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation happens to be.

Obama has gone above and beyond to promote the LGBT Community because he believes in this country and that discrimination against gays and lesbians needs to end.  Although he has not distinctly said he supports same-sex marriages, it is not something to dwell on because he has been more than willing to help the LGBT Community and end discrimination against them.

I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples.- President Obama

In October 2009, Obama gave a speech at Human Rights Campaign Dinner addressing the progress of equal opportunity for LGBT Community.  During this speech, he talked about the different opportunities and plans he wants to incorporate into his presidential term.  He plans to pass an inclusive employee non-discrimination bill, arguing that no one should be fired because they are gay.

I once again argue against John Aravosis’s claim that the LGBT Community has Obama’s political support, but not his heart.  I think this short passage from his speech reaffirms that Obama does care and completely understands the LGBT Community.  Obama talks about the Human Rights Campaign policy and how it is about more than any policy they can make into a law.

It’s about our common humanity and our willingness to walk in someone else’s shoes: to imagine losing a job not because of your performance at work but because of your relationship at home; to imagine worrying about a spouse in the hospital, with the added fear that you’ll have to produce a legal document just to comfort the person you love to imagine the pain of losing a partner of decades and then discovering that the law treats you like a stranger.- President Obama.

This passage shows more than President Obama believing in equal opportunities for all, but his understanding of the way these laws affect people.  He realizes how hard it would be to lose a job based on sexual orientation or not be able to comfort a sick spouse in the hospital.  I think this shows that Obama not only supports the LGBT Community, but also has the heart and determination to change it.

Although Obama has planned on helping the LGBT Community since his first day in office, some conservatives think he is trying to shift the attention from spending cuts to social causes.  This is a biased way to look at the progress that President Obama has made for this country.

A president should not focus on one problem, fix it, and then move onto the next one.  A good president should be working on multiple problems within society at one time.

Just because he is working on ending discrimination towards the LGBT Community, doesn’t mean he forgot about the economic issues.

I think Obama is a president who knows how to multi-task and realizes that many issues need to be handled all at once, rather than one at a time.

I believe President Obama is doing the right thing and I completely support him for  his fight against hate, discrimination, and intolerance.  I believe everyone deserves equal opportunity no matter what your sexual orientation might be.  There is no doubt in my mind that a world of acceptance will bring a better economic and political future.

February 21, 2011

Thanks Presidents’ Day, the protesting shall continue…

Posted in News at 2:55 am by brittanylschmidt

Protesting at the Capitol for a week straight, check.  Calling in sick to school to protest, check.   Classes getting canceled to march down State Street, check.  Camping out at the Capitol over night, check.  Democrats leaving the state, check.  Presidents’ Day as a school holiday equaling more protest….CHECK!

I thought the protest was supposed to last for three days and then a final vote on Friday.  The protest has lasted six days and no one knows how much further it will go.  We have found multiple ways to keep this protest going until we get what we want.

For the past week, we have been sleep deprived, uncomfortably squeezed in tight places,enduring cold rainy weather, and yet we are still here.

I am sure all the Republicans thought they would get their building back considering school is starting up again tomorrow.  Well, teachers may have found a way to beat the system again.

I can’t recall a time that Presidents’ Day was seen as a school holiday in which we all got school off.  Well, some school districts recognize Presidents’ Day as a school holiday and will be getting the day off.  Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council, urges those who have off to come join the protest.

Over the past week, history has been in the making.  Protests up to 25,000 people have stormed the Capitol in protest of Governor Scott Walkers bill to limit union bargaining power.  Union workers have worked for these rights for a long time and what Scott Walker plans to do  is cruel and heartless.  I think everyone understands the state of the economy and the budget deficit Wisconsin is facing, but this is not the right way to go about it.

I attended the protests on Thursday, February 17th for a couple of hours.  Hearing about all the rallying and protesting in my classrooms got me pumped up to join the action.  After class, I rushed over to the Capitol.  Seeing the signs held high walking down State Street was a really neat sight to see.

But nothing compares to how I felt standing in the middle of thousands of people chanting, “Kill the Bill!”

It sent shivers all the way up my back.  It was so empowering to be with a large group of people fighting for the right cause.  To save unions and fight against Walker’s plan.

I think it is incredible that our protesting encouraged the Democrats  to leave the state  until Walker is willing to negotiate.  Apparently Walker thought otherwise and responded quite differently.  Walker said, “Democracy is not about hiding out in another state.  It’s about showing up here in the capital and making the case there, and for us, we’re willing to take this as long as it takes. Walker is taking away bargaining rights without letting people have a say, how is that a democracy?  Apparently he thinks the definition of Democracy doesn’t mean a government by the people.

After being in the Capitol for an exciting five hours, my friends and I decided to take our signs outside.  As soon as we got outside, a fireman parade was starting.  The streets immediately went silent as the fireman walked past.   I stood next to a man who said,

” I have been a teacher for 38 years and this is the proudest I have ever been.”

Scott Walker should be thanking us for being a relatively peaceful group of people. I don’t have any evidence of a fight or violence breaking out during these past few days of protests, other than angry word battles between supporters and protesters.  With a crowd mixed of children, students, parents, teachers, grandparents, and union workers, the protest has been for the most part respectable.

Scott Walker is not only hurting the teachers, but also their students.  Because teachers are not able to receive all their benefits, they may look for jobs at other universities.  This upsets me because I am paying to come here, to The University of Wisconsin for an outstanding education.  If my teachers are leaving, the reputation of this school will decline and lose its credibility.  Teachers have canceled classes in protest and 260 UW faculty members have signed a letter in support of collective bargaining rights.

I just can’t see any positive coming out of this bill passing.

I think professors are in a rough spot right now.  They are constantly being reminded to do their job.  Go to class, prepare a lecture, and proceed with daily appointments.  But how can you go about your day knowing that your job is in jeopardy?  Should I have class and act like my mind is all there or should I protest at the Capitol to fight for my rights to bargain as a Union member?  This question has been asked a lot lately and I am curious how the teachers are going to respond this week.

Head over to this link and check out this video from the Ed Schultz Show. It highlights the protest and what the people in Wisconsin stand for.  This is what Democracy looks like!

February 13, 2011

Hooray for V-Day!

Posted in News at 4:42 pm by brittanylschmidt

Although today is Valentine’s Day, many only celebrate with chocolate and cards from a loved one.  Well, V-Day can be celebrated for a multitude of reasons.  Today, is the celebration of V-Day, the global movement to stop violence against women.

According to V-day, their goal is to create dialogue and shatter taboos around violence against women and girls through thousands of events in over 140 countries.


In 1994, Eve Ensler wrote a play called, “The Vagina Monologues.”  It is a compilation of monologues that were gathered through interviews with women around the world.  They are true stories of women who have been affected positively and negatively from having a vagina and being a women.  Since 1998, Eve has allowed groups around the world to perform the Vagina Monologues in order to educate and get others involved.

The University of Wisconsin took advantage of this once-a-year opportunity and reproduced, “The Vagina Monologues,” by Eve Ensler at the Union this past weekend.  Here is a video created by the women who were involved in reproducing the show this year.

Jenny, an actress in the play, said, “I think there are a lot of things in here everybody secretly thinks about but never talk about, women especially, and then never talk about with men and I think it is time that people talk about these things out loud.”

Many women have been subjected to sexual assault through vaginal abuse.  Acccording to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, one in six women will be sexually assaulted as opposed to one in 33 men.

College women are four times more likely to be sexually abused.

Because the title has the word vagina in it, men may find it unnecessary to read the book.  Many assume it has a strong feminist attitude that bashes men.  It is important to note that the script doesn’t play favorites, it focuses on female empowerment — something that deserves encouragement from both men and women.

While this book has a feminist viewpoint behind it, the voice of the play is not the overwhelming feminist tone that most people think about.  To some, feminism accompanies the vision of a bra -burning, radical and butch woman who refuses to shave her legs.

Well for others, feminism refers to women who are confident in themselves.  Women who not only believe in women’s rights but are cognoscenti of what opportunities and privileges they have obtained over centuries.  Ideally, feminism doesn’t just mean women understanding the struggles and opportunities that have arisen in the past, but it also means men understanding and believing in women’s rights.

Women and men can both participate in celebrating V-Day tomorrow.  Many will continue to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the traditional sense with chocolate and roses, but it can be celebrated with putting an end to violence against women too.

I did an interview with the women who were involved with reproducing The Vagina Monologues this year at the UW and why they think it is so important.  Feel free to check it out.