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Yes Artur Davis showed up last night, accompanied by his good friend, earliest supporter, and the "first person to give me a $1000 check," (a paraphrased quote), the Mayor of Bessemer, Ed May. The congressman's assistant said there were 122 people present, an SRO crowd.
I was somewhat surprised that not one question was raised during the hour and a half question and answer period about the War in Iraq or about the patriot act. People are more concerned about the economy, gas prices, education, health care and infrastructure. The was one "big issue" question and that was about immigration.
Davis supports tight border security, and a guest worker program. He would allow undocumented aliens that have been in the country working for 7 years to have guest worker status and a path to citizenship that puts them at the end of the line and requires them to pay a fine. For those who have been here 2 - 7 years, he supports guest worker status, but no path to citizenship. For those here less than two years...sorry Charlie, you are out of here. He also favors continuing to allow children of illegals to receive food stamps (the ony benefit they qualify for...and who wants to see kids starve) and attend schools (better to educate them than keep them on the streets from 8 to 3 every day).
A local pastor asked a question about hate crimes, and showed that he has been influenced by the misrepresentations of the legislation spread by the religious right. He said he had heard that preachers would be restricted from preaching about homosexuality and if they did they would be charged with a hate crime. Not so, said Davis, who helped draft the bill that passed the house. Nothing in the bill restricts our first amendment right to free speech. The bill only provides for harsher penalties for physically attacking a person because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.
I raised my hand at every opportunity and was finally recognized for the last question, and I asked about recent vote against ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act, adding that a no vote gives the appearance that everyone should not be given the same rights and protections. He said he agreed that the government should not be making employment decisions based on sexual orientation, but that he doesn't think the government has the right to tell individuals who they can hire and who they can't. He mentioned that churches were exempt, but countered that religious individuals were not, and he thinks they should be.
Of course he didn't mention that it is the churches and the religious individuals who are at fault here for not recognizing that gay people came about just like everyone else and that the church should accept gay people for who they are. Actually, he did sort of allude to that, saying the churches should be more open and not restrict themselves to people who are just like they are...if they do they are missing the point.
I visited with Davis after the event and reminded him that I serve on a committee for which he is the chair (the Health Committee of the Black Belt Action Commission)Commission). He remembered.
I give him credit for the work he has done in helping the Black Belt, but he pointed out that while improvements are being made there (such as unemployment rates in all the Black Belt Counties being in single digits...a change from just a few years back) we are slipping in urban areas when it comes to poverty. The poverty rate in Jefferson County is over 19%. He tied this in with the unemployment rate in Jefferson County, at 2.7% and drew the conclusion that there are a lot of poor people out there who are working.
He might have read my blog yesterday because he mentioned the Army Corp of Engineers as being the most dysfunctional and least efficient government agency known. He was speaking about flood plains and water but levees tie right in there with that.
ENDA passed the house without Davis's vote. He admits that attitudes are still evolving on gay issues and that in a few years as young people grow up and vote that more and more rights and protections will be afforded. It's a shame that he is not on the forefront of that effort, but maybe, as he said, his own attitude toward the LGBT community will evolve and he will see that most gays, like most blacks or most poor or most women, are hard working spiritual people who just want to move forward with their own lives and see our country do the same.