You know that not-so-subtle feeling whenyou go out on a limb and you can hear it cracking, yet you still stand there, in a void of silence and heady breezes, waiting for the inevitable? A hitch, a rumble and then – bam! – you’re falling, only to be yanked up by an uncomfortable wedgie from the branch beneath you. That, dear readers, is how we’re uncomfortably choosing to define “backlash” this week, bookending seven days full of backlashes that have left us here, in this courtroom of truth, with a neck brace and a long story to tell.
Sure, we could go on and on about Newt Gingrich and his Very Sour Grapes move to hold the Republican Party of Florida accountable for the early primary move that – because of arcane bylaws – may mean the divvying of Florida’s 50 Republican delegates rather than the total going toward the Romney ramrod, but we’ll leave the Gingrich nightmare to August (or whenever he combusts). Instead, we’ll talk about what really happened last week when the right branch hit the left branch and we all passed out from whiplash beneath the political version of The Giving Tree.
Unless you were trapped in a padded womb, by now you’re well aware of the giant pink eye that landed on the pulled faces of Susan G. Komen for the Cure last week. The breast-cancer tackling, “Race for the Cure” running ladies of nonprofit lore announced that, effective Jan. 31, they would no longer be funding Planned Parenthood and its liberal women’s health crusade that doesn’t often include ladies who lunch. Uh-oh! Komen’s founder and CEO Nancy Brinker sat the whole thing out in a pink bunker for a couple of days, until she surfaced on the television Thursday to assure the viewing public that there was nothing political about the move. Planned Parenthood, she said, was under investigation, which made it ineligible for the annual $700,000that Komen was providing.
Believe whatever correct conspiracy theory you want about the resulting social media explosion last week – the revelations that the Komen foundation is a top-heavy machine of ineffectiveness that sues people and dyes foods artificially pink; that the foundation’s vice president, Karen Handel, is a pro-life automaton who hates gays and yet still lost a bid for the Georgia governor’s office; that the group also pulled $12 million in funding from embryonic stem cell research that actually could produce a cure for breast cancer; that Komen is now painting handguns pink in Wisconsin “for the cure” – but the fact is, Brinker and company were blindsided by the public outcry that followed their decision. There were splatters of pink bloodeverywhere. (Handel resigned on Feb. 7.)
So what’s this “investigation”? Here’s where the Florida part comes in: U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, launched a probe into Planned Parenthood’s finances last year based on a report by pro-life group Americans United for Life; that group’s president, Charmaine Yoest, has been lobbying against women’s reproductive rights since the Reagan days, and in a story published on Feb. 2 in the Washington Post, Yoest referred to the fund-slashing as “some of the best news of my entire life,” calling Planned Parenthood “very fashionable amongst a certain philanthropic set.” Horrible.
Anyway, while we were on the phone with Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Sue Idtensohn on Feb. 3, picking her brain for a suitable reaction (there were a few: PPGO does not receive Komen funds; there is nothing “duplicative” about the services the organization does provide in breast screenings; of the 1,976 screenings performed last year at PPGO, only 4 percent required a mammogram follow-up), news came across the transom that Brinker had apologized for her decision and that Komen would continue to fund Planned Parenthood. Moving target!
“It’s been good for us in kind of a perverse way,” Idtensohn said, pointing out the flood of donations – including a $250,000 pledge from New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg – and support the Komen fracas has spawned. “It’s actually given women a voice and they’ve been able to see their opinions count.”
Now, whether that momentum will continue to help the organization as it fights off attacks on reproductive freedoms from state legislatures and Congress alike remains to be seen.
“It’s a huge catalyst,” says Idtensohn, who is set to retire at the end of March. “When women were reading about this online, they got so pissed that they called their elected officials. That tells me that there really is power in the movement.”
Speaking of pinkish backlashes, you might recall our reporting last week on the Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs-shaped speed bump that gay activists ran into at their Jan. 26 meeting with the mayor about a countywide domestic-partnership registry (“Dissolving partnership,” Feb. 2). Well, on Feb. 3, the Orlando Anti-Discrimination Ordinance Committee shot off an eight-page screed to the mayor and county commissioners rebuffing the white noise that they encountered in the meeting.
In our story, we reported the presence of Jacobs’ consultant John Dowless – a noted right-winger with issues – though we were told that he was just there to listen. Turns out, according to sources who were allowed in the room (the media was not), Dowless wasn’t just a silent observer, but rather a sort of bully who threatened to wield his influence over the other commissioners should the OADO continue to push the mayor for a domestic-partnership registry.
In its letter to the county, OADO chides the mayor for her lack of transparency, her collaboration with anti-gay political insiders and, perhaps most importantly, her refusal to define “domestic partners”in Orange County for fear of it being in violation of her beloved gay-marriage-banning Amendment 2 (this, even though she voted to make “domestic partner” benefits available to county employees).
“We reject the idea that naming and defining ‘domestic partners’ in an Orange County DPR is in violation of Amendment 2 and caution you and your legal team to do your due diligence before taking a position with such far-reaching implications,” the letter reads. “No one, including yourself and your legal advisors, has found legal grounds for denying these protections to the families of your own employees. We are deeply concerned that you could argue against those same protections for all citizens of Orange County.” Jacobs will have one more meeting with OADO on Feb. 20 (no media, again!) before a heated board discussion on Feb. 21. Do you hear that crack? You’re about to fall.