Tennessee Gets Closer to Passing Bill That Ties Welfare to School Grades

Tennessee Gets Closer to Passing Bill That Ties Welfare to School Grades

A Tennessee bill that would cut welfare benefits of parents with children performing poorly in school cleared committees of both the House and Senate last week.

The measure takes “a carrot and stick approach,” one of the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah, told the Knoxville News and Sentinel.

Seth Freed Wessler summarized the bill last month on

A Tennessee lawmaker introduced legislation last week to stop welfare payments to parents if their kids get bad grades in school. The sponsor, State Senator Stacy Campfield said, “One of the top tickets to break the chain of poverty is education.” But he added, “We have done little to hold [parents] accountable for their child’s performance.”

The bill would chop nearly a third of family’s Temporary Aid for Needy Families benefits, already a pittance, if their child fails to pass state competency tests or get’s held back. How exactly the threat to make poor people poorer will improve educational outcomes isn’t at all clear.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, and Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah. It calls for a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits to parents whose children are not making satisfactory progress in school, the Knoxville News and Sentinel reported.

The measure faces another committee hearing in the House, but is now clear for a floor vote in the Senate.

What Rubio Really Wants on Immigration Reform Is Control

What Rubio Really Wants on Immigration Reform Is Control

After nearly five months of backroom talks, lawmakers crafting immigration reform bills in the House and Senate say they’ll release legislation next week. But as veteran immigration reformers like Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham danced their familiar routines on the Sunday talk shows this past weekend, the new kid on the scene, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tried to come off as a cooling agent. In a letter to Senate Juditiary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rubio warned against the “rush to legislate.”

“Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature,” Rubio wrote.

Some have commented that Rubio is trying to build himself an exit strategy from the immigration reform process, to which he’s been integral thus far. That could be. While there’s little doubt the Florida Republican is committed to reforming immigration laws, skeptics say he’s even more committed to taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania come 2016. And to the extent he thinks the reform process will hinder that ambition by angering the right of the party, Rubio may be ready to bail.

Another possibility is that Rubio is just trying to position himself as the gatekeeper and as a leader, and he’s pressing the breaks any time it appears to the public that someone else is pressing the gas.

Rubio’s objections to the speed of the process don’t have a great deal of substance. He’s mainly said that he wants the bill to go through the normal committee process and in his letter on Sunday, he called for a series of hearings to discuss the bill. The truth is that was already the plan—leading members of the Senate have committed to starting the reform bill in the Judiciary Committee and moving it deliberatively to the floor.

Magic Johnson Says He’s Proud of His Gay Son

Magic Johnson Says He's Proud of His Gay Son

TMZ cameras caught Magic Johnson’s son walking hand-in-and down the Sunset Strip with another man. But it’s no biggie because Earvin Johnson III — aka EJ — is supported by his father and mother in “every way.”

“Cookie and I love EJ and support him in every way,” Magic Johnson told TMZ. “We’re very proud of him.”

EJ, 20, is currently studying at New York University, TMZ reports.

Magic Johnson has been public with his support for gay rights for several years. In November 2008, he lent his voice to the “No on Prop. 8” campaign and recorded a telephone call for California voters urging them to vote no on the ban on same-sex marriage.

“This is Magic Johnson calling to ask you to join me and Barack Obama in opposing Proposition 8,” Johnson said on the call. “Prop 8 singles out one group of Californians to be treated differently - including members of our family, our friends, and our coworkers. That is not what California is about. So this Tuesday, vote no on Proposition 8. It is unfair and wrong. Thanks.”

HRC Apologizes for Mistreating Trans and Immigrant Activists

HRC Apologizes for Mistreating Trans and Immigrant Activists

The Human Rights Campaign today was the last group to issue an apology for what they referred to as “two unfortunate incidents at the United for Marriage event at the Supreme Court last week.”

“In the midst of a tremendously historic week for our community, two unfortunate incidents at the United for Marriage event at the Supreme Court last week have caused pain in the community,” HRC’s Fred Sainz, Vice President, Communications and Marketing, wrote in HRC statement:

In one case, a trans activist was asked to remove the trans pride flag from behind the podium, and in another, a queer undocumented speaker was asked to remove reference to his immigration status in his remarks.

HRC joined in a coalition statement on Friday apologizing for these incidents and the individuals involved have personally offered their apologies to those affected. But to be perfectly clear, HRC regrets the incidents and offers our apologies to those who were hurt by our actions. We failed to live up to the high standard to which we hold ourselves accountable and we will strive to do better in the future. Through both our legislative and programmatic work, HRC remains committed to making transgender equality a reality.

HRC’s statement came after an apology from the United for Marriage Coalition and a statement from GetEQUAL. Initially, HRC denied any wrongdoing, but Matt Comer at Q Notes quotes several parties that in fact say the group was actually responsible for at least one of the incidents. also points out the statements from the gay rights groups only came after the blog Transition Transmission demanded an apology for the flag removal incident. The Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP) later posted a video calling for an apology as well.

A Non-Grotesque Picture From the Hospital Room of Louisville’s Kevin Ware

A Non-Grotesque Picture From the Hospital Room of Louisville's Kevin Ware

Louisville Cardinals sophomore guard Kevin Ware suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in televised sports history on Sunday night. His team, however, went on to win the game and made sure to bring the good news (and the Midwest Regional trophy) to Ware’s bedside on Sunday night.

There’s also more good news, less 24 hours after the incident and one surgery later,Ware has been able to move around his Indianapolis hospital room with the help of crutches.

The University of Louisville’s sports medicine director, Fred Hina, told the Courier-Journal Monday morning that though Ware’s recovery will be lengthy, the injury should not end his career.

Ware’s teammates have been posting pictures to different social media sites. Check out some of the updates below.

Watch Kid President Introduce Mexican-Filipino Singer Jessica Sanchez at White House

Watch Kid President Introduce Mexican-Filipino Singer Jessica Sanchez at White House

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome children and their families to the South Lawn of the White House for the 2013 White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday.

Kid President had the honor of introducing the first family and Mexican-Filipino singer Jessica Sanchez to start the festivities. Sanchez, 17, was the runner-up on the eleventh season of the reality singing show, “American Idol” and is currently signed to Interscope Records.

March Madness: Native American Guard Shoni Schimmel Delivers ‘One of the Biggest Upsets in History’

March Madness: Native American Guard Shoni Schimmel Delivers 'One of the Biggest Upsets in History'

For weeks, ESPN has been asking only one question in women’s college basketball: Who’s going to stop Baylor University’s Brittney Griner?

Griner is the first National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) female basketball player ever to score 2,000 points and block 500 shots. But her final college game came a week earlier than expected in a shocking upset when Baylor lost to Louisville.

ESPN said Louisville pulled off “one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.” The Associated Press also marked the occasion with similar words, calling Baylor’s loss “one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NCAA women’s tournament.”

So who’s largely responsible for taking down Baylor University and Brittney Griner?

The Indian Country Today Media Network has the answer:

Leading the charge for the U of L was, again, All-Everything point guard Shoni Schimmel. She drained five three-pointers and hit from everywhere else closer to the hoop, finishing with a team-high 22 points. Shoni’s sister and super sixth-woman, Jude Schimmel, added six points, five rebounds and three assists, tied for tops on the team. The Schimmel sisters are from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon.

Shoni Schimmel, who’s 5-foot-10, grew up on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in eastern Oregon.

“There’s so many Native Americans that coulda-shoulda-woulda but didn’t do anything,” Schimmel told Louisville’s Courier-Journal in 2011. “It’s almost sickening how much talent is [on the reservation.]”

“I am very proud of who I am and where I came from, but I wanted to be one of the ones that made it out. My job is to play basketball, and I love doing it,” Schimmel went on to say.

According to NCAA’s most recent NCAA Race and Gender Demographics Report, there were four male and 21 female Division I basketball players that identified as American Indian/Alaskan Native during the 2011-2012 season.

Study: Undocumented Latinos Get Into HIV Treatment Dangerously Late

Study: Undocumented Latinos Get Into HIV Treatment Dangerously Late

A recent study conducted at a free clinic in Houston found undocumented Latinos with HIV infections enter care with more advanced disease than other patients. Despite getting medical care at later dates, however, undocumented Latinos with HIV achieved similar success in treatment as documented Latino and white patients.

HIV doctors and researchers have long warned that it is far more difficult for treatment to succeed when patients begin after the virus has advanced in the body. Late diagnosis has already been identified as a key reason for higher death rates among black Americans.

Dr. Thomas Giordano, associate professor of medicine-infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine, reviewed data from patients who visited Houston’s Thomas Street Health Center over a five-and-a-half year period. The study consisted of 1,620 HIV-infected adults, including 186 undocumented Latino patients, 278 documented Latino patients, 986 black patients and 170 white patients.

“We found that undocumented Hispanic patients came into the clinic with the most advanced HIV disease compared to the documented Hispanic, black and white populations, indicating that they were delaying care or had experienced delays in getting diagnosed,” said Dr. Giordano in a statement.

The study found that undocumented Latinos entered treatment with the most weakened immune systems.

One year after entering HIV care undocumented Latinos achieved similar rates of retention in care and similar success in reversing HIV’s advance as documented Latino and white patients. The study found black patients, however, were “significantly less likely” to succeed in care than even undocumented Latinos. There has been significant research on the impact social and economic factors have on black Americans’ ability to get, keep and thrive in HIV care.

Houston has the third largest Latino population in the United States.

Wu Tang Clan’s GZA Teaching Science in NYC Schools

Wu Tang Clan's GZA Teaching Science in NYC Schools

Gary Grice, one of the founders of Wu Tang Clan who goes by the stage name GZA, dropped out of school when he was in 10th grade. These days he’s back in schools sharing the expertise he’s developed over the years and helping students learn science through the art of rapping.

NYPD Using Facial Recognition Software on Facebook and Instagram Photos

NYPD Using Facial Recognition Software on Facebook and Instagram Photos reports that the New York Police Department is using facial recognition technology to match photos of suspects with images in online databases like Facebook and Instagram.

DNAinfo has the details:

The new technology is the latest weapon in the NYPD’s crime-solving arsenal that already includes DNA databases, radiological detectors and sophisticated license plate readers. The new investigative entity was formally launched late last year, with eight cops working in teams of four manning the operations.

Facial recognition — which zeroes in on features and extracts size and shape of eyes, noses, cheekbones and jaws to find a match — is now revolutionizing investigations in ways not seen since fingerprint analysis was implemented generations ago.

Analysts who follow the NYPD closely fear the new investigation tactics could lead to racial profiling.

“The ways that law enforcement is using technology is increasingly becoming a concern for communities of color. There’s a long, ugly history of surveillance in these communities, dating back to COINTELPRO and leading up to the NYPD’s recent and unwarranted surveillance of Muslim communities,” said’s news editor Jamilah King. “These new tactics are frightening precisely because racial profiling is so rampant.”

Civil Rights Groups Issue School Security Plan—Without the Guns

The answer to the threat of gun violence in schools is not more guns—no matter what the gun lobby says. So argues civil rights groups, and on Thursday the Advancement Project, the ACLU and the NAACP released a comprehensive school safety proposal with a basic premise: the best protection against school-based shootings is holistic prevention.

The plan comes ahead of the National Rifle Association, which announced earlier this year that it too plans to release a model school security plan in April. The NRA’s plan is expected to focus on calls for armed security officers or school personnel. The NRA is not alone. When President Obama issued his gun control and school safety proposals earlier this year, he called on Congress to fund more mental health professionals, counselors and school police officers in schools. The urgent talk about school safety seeks to address the question on so many people’s minds since the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn.: how do we keep students in schools safe?

The civil rights groups’ plan, called “The Gun-Free Way to School Safety,” (PDF) rejects reactive and militaristic school security measures like arming teachers with guns, or stationing more police officers in schools. Those sorts of tactics can have adverse effects on a school climate and funnel youth into the school-to-prison pipeline. Instead, schools ought to put a focus on tending to students’ mental health, and increasing security in ways which do not militarize campuses. Zero-tolerance school discipline often alienates youth and makes them lose trust in the adults and law enforcement officers in their lives—and that kind of disaffection is what can breed violence down the line.

New Orleans Police Chief Says Curfew Enforcement Isn’t Racially Biased

New Orleans Police Chief Says Curfew Enforcement Isn't Racially Biased

New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas says his city’s curfew policies are put in place because children “are less likely to get hurt or hurt someone else” if they are at home during the nighttime. But youth advocates are arguing curfew enforcement disproportionately targets poor, African-American youth.

Serpas denies his officers engage in profiling youths when they enforce curfew laws but data analyzed by The Times-Picayune found that in 2011, 93 percent of youths detained at the city’s curfew center were black.


A 2000 study of New Orleans’ curfew law concluded that it did not deter crime. The Times-Picayune summarizes the report:

[The study called] “Do Juvenile Curfew Laws Work? A Time-Series Analysis of the New Orleans Law” found that the city’s ordinance was ineffective because it didn’t cover older adolescents and young adults, who often perpetrate crime; and it excluded what are called the “afterschool hours,” when minors are most likely to commit offenses.

Junot Díaz Schools Stephen Colbert on College-Bound Undocumented Youth

Junot Díaz Schools Stephen Colbert on College-Bound Undocumented Youth

On Monday, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz was a guest on the “The Colbert Report.” His segment which ran close to seven minutes focused on immigration reform and his work with Freedom University, the tuition-free organization that provides rigorous, college-level instruction to all academically qualified students regardless of their immigration status.

“Every single immigrant we have, undocumented or documented, is a future American. That’s just the truth of it,” Díaz told Colbert.

Rick Ross Says That You Totally Don’t Get His Lyrics

Rick Ross Says That You Totally Don't Get His Lyrics

Activists from the website started an online petition earlier this week calling on Rick Ross to apologize for the rap lyrics they say describe date rape.

The controversial lyrics are from the rapper’s new track called “U.O.E.N.O.” where he rapper boasts about slipping ecstacy in a woman’s drink and then having sex with her: “Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.”

(’s Jamilah King wrote about the lyrics and the response they’ve received earlier this week. )

But Thursday morning Rick Ross visited New Orleans’ Q 93.3 attempting to clear up the controversy by saying “I wanna make sure this is clear, that woman is the most precious gift known to man.”

Rick Ross called the whole situation a “misunderstanding” and did not offer an apology.

“The term rape wasn’t used,” the rapper said. “You know, I would never use the term rape.”

He went on to say that he, as well as hip-hop, does not condone rape.

“I just wanted to reach out to all the queens that’s on my timeline, all the sexy ladies, the beautiful ladies that had been reachin’ out to me with the misunderstanding,” Rick Ross said in the same breath. “We don’t condone rape, and I’m not with that.”

The Familiar and False Argument That Gay Rights ‘Shut Out’ Other Civil Rights

The Familiar and False Argument That Gay Rights 'Shut Out' Other Civil Rights

Yesterday Keli Goff, a columnist for The Root, argued that voting rights and affirmative action was suffering a “media shutout” at the expense of marriage equality. The premise itself lacks validity: March Madness also won a lot of media coverage this month, but it would be silly to argue that it came at the expense of, say, immigration reform. But the charge not coincidentally revives the manufactured debate of black versus gay rights, a divide that never existed until anti-gay organizations actively sought to create it. Still, even if you accept Goff’s false premise, the argument doesn’t stand up to inspection.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard back to back oral arguments this week on two of history’s largest gay rights cases, on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8. Due to those unprecedented hearings, and also owed to a few traditionally pro-DOMA Republicans coming out in favor of marriage equality, media coverage of the issue has been massive. Goff somehow concludes news editors around the country have blown the events out of proportion.

Wrote Goff:

“I bet you know that Republican Sen. Rob Portman now supports same-sex marriage, spurred by his love and compassion for his openly gay son. I bet you also know that 10 Democratic senators oppose gay marriage. The reason you know both of these facts is that same-sex marriage has become the mainstream media’s civil rights cause célèbre …To be clear, this population deserves rights and protections regardless of how few of them there may be, but not at the expense of other groups.”

Goff sought to prove her observation by doing a Google search on “Gay marriage before the Supreme Court” and then comparing the results to those she got by searching “Voting Rights before the Supreme Court” and “Affirmative action before the Supreme Court.” 

This is an imperfect gauge. Google searches aren’t uniform. Results vary based on computer and browser settings, cookies, and proximity to events related to the keyword. It also pulls up duplicate hits and non-media webpages that happen to mention the keywords.

Despite the problematic premise and methodology, I was still curious if DOMA was in fact drowning out these other important civil rights issues. I did a Lexis search, which specifically pulls up news results, and searched these terms paired with “U.S. Supreme Court” (There are “supreme courts” all over the nation so you have to specify “U.S.”).

It’s no surprise that voting rights earned little coverage over the last 14 days. It was heard before SCOTUS a month ago. “Gay marriage,” (a problematic term), “DOMA” and “marriage equality” had huge coverage in this time period, as expected given the recent SCOTUS arguments. 60 days out, “gay marriage” still wins, but voting rights coverage is substantially greater over the past two months compared to its coverage the past two weeks. Over the past three months, voting rights coverage trumps all terms — it’s not even close. It’s important to look at the range of coverage over time because both voting rights and marriage equality have been protracted battles that played out well before the SCOTUS hearings.

Affirmative action, did not generate as much coverage as any of the terms, but there was never a time period when it was “shut out” of coverage. It faired much better in general public engagement. These Google Trends charts show how often people searched these terms over the last 90 days, and when those searches peaked and flatlined. Public interest has been more robust over time for affirmative action, and voting rights to a lesser extent, while marriage equality was flat until this week’s hearings:

Marriage equality:

Gay marriage:

Affirmative action:

Voting rights:

None of these analyses are perfect. There’s hundreds of metrics for evaluating coverage and interest. But what we can conclude is that there has definitely been no media blackout caused by DOMA. There’s little productive value in drumming up contrived tensions between marriage equality advocates and people of color. Each of these cases, at root, is about 14th amendment equal protection under the law. The “media shutout” on civil rights is not a thing.

Arizona Doesn’t Want Transgender Folks to Use Public Restrooms

Arizona Doesn't Want Transgender Folks to Use Public Restrooms

First Arizona lawmakers went after the immigrant community with SB 1070. Now they’re going after transgender people with SB 1045.

Last week, Arizona state Rep. John Kavanagh (R) failed to pass a bill that would have prosecuted transgender people with a class 1 misdemeanor for using public restrooms that don’t match their birth sex. But late Wednesday a panel of Arizona state lawmakers voted to advance a softer bill that protects business owners from discrimination lawsuits if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom or fitting room.

Arizona’s has the details:

Senate Bill 1045 would prohibit local governments from passing ordinances that could subject businesses to lawsuits or criminal penalties if they forbid a transgender person from using a restroom.

Bill sponsor Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said the measure is a response to Phoenix’s new city ordinance, which bans discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents. The law applies to public accommodations such as stores, restaurants and hotels.

City attorneys have said the ordinance could extend to bathroom use in some cases. For instance, a person with male genitalia who identifies as a woman might have a discrimination claim if the facility bars that person from using the restroom, and vice versa.

During seven hours of testimonies during Wednesday’s hearing, only one person testified in favor of the bill, according to the AP, while more than 200 turned out to testify in opposition.

Gay and transgender rights advocates say SB 1045 will lead to profiling and discrimination.

“This law not only gives business owners the right to profile and discriminate against transgender people, but encourages harmful ‘gender-policing’ of anyone who doesn’t look masculine or feminine enough,” said M. Dru Levasseur, a transgender rights attorney for Lambda Legal, in an email to

“Transgender people are targets for hatred and violence. To pass a law that carves out a license to discriminate is extremely dangerous,” Levasseur went on to say.

The National Center for Transgender Equality echoed Levasseur concerns.

“The Arizona Appropriations Committee approved an incredibly discriminatory and hateful bill that specifically targets transgender people,” said NCTE executive director Mara Keisling in a statement. “Rejecting the thousands of people who’ve spoken out against SB1045 in Arizona and across the United States, Rep. Kavanagh and his six allies instead chose to defend discrimination and protect discriminators. SB1045 brings more shame to Arizona’s legislature for isolating and targeting another marginalized community.”

George Zimmerman’s Brother Says His Twitter Tirade Was “A Mistake”

George Zimmerman's Brother Says His Twitter Tirade Was

Earlier this week George Zimmerman’s brother shared a picture on Twitter that compared Trayvon Martin and one of two teenagers accused in the recent fatal shooting of a 13-month-old boy in a coastal Georgia town.

Robert Zimmerman wrote in a tweet, “a picture is worth a thousand words … any questions?” In another tweet, he said, “Lib media shld ask if what these2 black teens did 2 a woman&baby is the reason ppl think blacks mightB risky.”

Comedian Baratunde Thurston Promises to Help End Violence Against Women

Comedian Baratunde Thurston Promises to Help End Violence Against Women

Comedian Baratunde Thurston has joined Breakthrough’s “Ring the Bell campaign: One million men. One million promises” to raise awareness about domestic violence. In the video above promoting the campaign, Thurston promises to help men around him understand that they have a role to play in making sure that the communities they live in are free from violence.

Hundreds Sign Petition Asking Rick Ross to Apologize for Rape Lyric

Hundreds Sign Petition Asking Rick Ross to Apologize for Rape Lyric

Rapper Rick Ross may think that rape is something to brag about, but the rest of the sane world doesn’t. The former corrections-officer-turned-rapper has been at the center of controversy recently thanks to one of his lyrics from his new track “U.O.E.N.O” where he boasts about slipping ecstacy in a woman’s drink and then having sex with her: *”Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” *

The video that’s above offers some collective responses to Ross’s lyric on the “FemGeniuses” YouTube Channel. A petition has now sprung up on asking for Ross to publicly apologize for “glorifying drugging/rapping a woman.” The petition claims that, at worst, Ross should be investigated and prosecuted assaults that he may have committed. At best, he should apologize, according to the petition.

Change doesn’t come from being outraged about big cases like the Steubenville rape trial. The dominant rape culture today has come from people ignoring and even glorifying statements like this because the song sounds good in the club. You don’t have to be a feminist to support this, but roofy-ing and rape are very serious and shockingly common problems.

On Tuesday, Jamilah Lemeiux wrote a piece at that looked at the lyric as one example of a troubling body of work.

The man is a marginally talented huckster who was lucky enough to find a massive audience that was either gullible or simply undiscerning enough not to care that the dude who’s supposed to be a 350-pound Miami drug kingpin was actually a corrections officer. And if it weren’t for a bunch of ghetto-fantasizing, pseudo-intellectual White boy rap bloggers who decided that Ross was the most important hip-hop act since Lil’ Wayne, I think he’d still be “hustling” loosies and porn mags to inmates.

…What’s so scary about Ross’ line is that this is something that a good number of men and boys actually do. Maybe a rap lyric won’t inspire an impressionable young dude to go and try to flip a couple keys, but normalizing this sort of rape? I see it. I see it and it scares me.

As of this afternoon, the petition has nearly 400 signatures. To read more about the it, go here.

Rosa Clemente, a prominent hip-hop activist and former vice presidential candidate, also offered up a response to Ross’s lyric.

Dan Choi Returns For ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Action at White House

Dan Choi Returns For 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Action at White House

The trial of gay former Army Lt. Dan Choi will resume on Thursday in federal court in Washington D.C. The former Iraq War vet and graduate of West Point is going to trial to face charges that stem from a November 2010 arrest for chaining himself to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The Washington Blade explains why Choi is expected in court:

The trial, which began in August 2011, has been on hold for more than a year over procedural disputes. The prosecutor initiated a highly unusual procedure known as a Writ of Mandamus that successfully overturned a ruling by the judge allowing Choi’s attorneys to argue that Choi was targeted for “selective” and “vindictive” prosecution.

Choi appealed the ruling barring him from using a selective and vindictive prosecution defense, but lost his appeals to higher courts.

At the White House protest, Choi and 12 other LGBT activists and supporters were charged with disobeying a lawful police order to disperse from the White House fence after each of them attached themselves to the fence with handcuffs.

British activist Peter Tatchell will attend the hearing in support of Choi and will also act as human rights observer. In a press release Tatchell said Choi is facing extra scrutiny because of his history challenging the federal government:

Generally, White House protestors are arrested and required to pay $100 fine to a municipal court, the equivalent of a parking ticket in the District of Columbia. Instead, in this case, the US Attorney’s Office is invoking a seldom-used federal level criminal charge called “Failure to Obey”.

Choi’s case is the first time since anti-Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan was prosecuted, that a protestor has been tried federally for demonstrating at the White House.

The trial Judge, John M. Facciola, has already made a prima facie finding for “vindictive prosecution” in Lt. Choi’s case, prompting the prosecution to make legal history by pausing the trial for two years and embroiling Lt. Choi in a Writ of Mandamus fight.

Until this trial, such a radical and rarely used writ has never been granted in the middle of criminal proceedings. The writ orders the trial judge not to hear evidence concerning the selective prosecution and political targeting of the defendant.

Activists and supporters are planning peaceful actions in support of Choi on Thursday morning. Ben Jealous, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are expected to make appearances in support of Choi, according to Choi’s supporters.

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