Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

We need an Omnibus Equality Bill

Filed By Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover | March 21, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: eQualityGiving, LGBT, LGBT civil rights, Omnibus Equality Bill, religious freedom

What if we asked for legal equality all at once in one comprehensive omnibus bill?

What would a bill for total legal equality look like?

We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a proposed bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations.

We believe now is the time to introduce an omnibus bill.

THIS IS WHAT THE PROPOSED OMNIBUS BILL COVERS

1. Employment
2. Housing
3. Public accommodation
4. Public facilities
5. Credit
6. Federally funded programs and activities
7. Education
8. Disability
9. Civil marriage
10. Hate crimes
11. Armed forces
12. Immigration

But shouldn't we try incremental gains instead?

INCREMENTALISM vs. OMNIBUS BILL

Some people think that an omnibus bill is too unrealistic to pursue because Congress functions in a very complex way. But the country voted for a new leader who promised major changes to the way our government functions.

We have tried incrementalism at the federal level for LGBT equality for 35 years without any results. Now is the best time to capitalize on the energy of new leadership and propose what we think change looks like.

As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said:

"A right delayed is a right denied."

Asking for an Omnibus Equality Bill does not mean that we need to pursue it at the expense of incremental bills. Both approaches can be used simultaneously, and we encourage this strategy.

An Omnibus bill has two major benefits:

  • It points out in clear legal terms all the areas in which we are not treated equally under the law. If we ask for less, we will certainly get less.
  • It provides a standard to which incremental victories can be compared. We may discover, for example, that even the trans-inclusive ENDA introduced in March 2007 still did not provide the same level of protections in employment that other groups receive.

MINI-SITE WITH ALL THE INFO YOU NEED

We have prepared a section of our website with all the information about the proposed bill:

www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

There you can:

  • Download the actual text of the proposed bill.
  • Review the frequently asked questions.
  • Check the status of the incremental bills currently proposed.
  • Vote on whether you support an Omnibus Equality Bill.
  • Post your strategic thoughts about such a bill.
  • Read quotes about whether this is the right time to fight for full equality.

If you believe that, in addition to incremental bills, we should also push for an Omnibus Equality Bill, tell your member of Congress, and tell your friends.

Join us to push for it, so that we can achieve LGBT legal equality faster.


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It's a nice fantasy, but in Realityland everyone knows that the split second anything legalizing SSM, civil or otherwise, is introduced in Congress it'll be immediately speed-tracked to Congressional purgatory, not to be seen or heard from again for decades.

In addition, it'll provide the right with plenty of ammunition for going after anything else LGBT-supportive this session. As much as I'd love to see it happen, from a realistic political perspective this has to be the very worst idea I've heard all year.

No. Please. No.

Rebecca,

I disagree. The extreme right will attack us with or without an Omnibus Equality Bill. They attacked ENDA and Hate Crimes with arguments we all know not to be true.

The secret of the extreme right communications machinery is that they can make even Mother Theresa look bad.

Let's not be afraid to ask for equality. As Martin Luther King said: "A right delayed is a right denied."

I personally do not mind fantasies, esp. when they involve having the dignity and tenacity to simply DEMAND equality now without apologies or fear. Sometimes the "impossible" happens, like a man on the moon or a black president; history does not have ALL of the answers.

But one cannot "demand" anything without some political/financial leverage to back it up, such as a federal tax revolt. Of course THAT will never happen until a large enough group of people decide that they ARE equal AND have every right to use civil disobedience to fight for what they already deserve. Heterosexuals would NOT put up with this crap, and neither should we.

Honestly, the Q community's response to inequality, PROP 8, and discrimination in general is tantamount to a child asking a parent for a cookie.

"May I have a cookie, please?"

"No, not right now. You may have one in 2028, or maybe if you're really good by 2015"

F*CK that. Gay or straight - everyone can pay taxes until we are all equal. If you have a problem paying the taxes of those who refuse to do so, that's not my problem.

Yippee!

Worst case: everybody becomes a Republican and we're all screwed, besides living off of roots and berries and the occasional neighbor's cat.

Next to worst case: we get an inventory of discriminatory practices out into the public's awareness.

Best case: we win.

I will give qualified support, without reading the proposal, because I like the idea and it is described as inclusive.

IF I read it, and it is not inclusive, well, then I'll rip it into teensy tiny pieces and and line a cage with it.

Omnibus puts the question entirely in the face of everyone.

And when the old ways -- assimilation and incrementalism -- don't work, chuck 'em out the window.

Time to embrace difference and inclusiveness and see if we can fight it all together for a change.

Thank you for your support. We have put lots of effort to ensure that the bill is totally inclusive. The bill has also been checked by many people. For weeks we had discussions concentrating only in the content and then a few more weeks concentrating on strategy. But if anybody has any specific proposal to make it better, we are all ears.

Toni, I read it. It's inclusive with a single exception, which you can read about in my comment on the eQualitygiving website: http://www.equalitygiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality. That exception is not the result of a failure to make sure that the protections of the bill include gender identity throughout, which they clearly do. Instead, the exception is the result of a failure to go as far as they could. The bill seeks to remedy the impact of DADT by allowing those expelled from the military under that policy to return to the service if they choose. IMO, it could, and should, extend that same right to trans people, most of whom are expelled not under DADT, but as "mentally unfit" simply because they are trans.

The bill does, however, go further than any other proposal to repeal DADT that I've read about by barring the military from discriminating on the basis of not just sexual orientation, but gender identity as well. The other proposals I've read about would simply repeal DADT, which does little to nothing for trans people in the military. This bill corrects that oversight, which is a major step forward in recognizing the needs of trans people and how they differ from those of gays and lesbians.

The first thing I looked for in this bill was a mention of the fact that transgender and/or gender-variant people are barred from service in the U.S. military.

It was also the first thing I failed to find.

Did I overlook this point -- or does this bill not include lifting the ban on LGB as well as T military service?

Download the Omnibus Equality Bill here:
http://www.eQualityGiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality
and check pages 22 to 24 it clearly indicates the prohibition to discriminate in the military based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Omnibus Equality Bill is the first legislation proposed that forbids discrimination in the military based on gender identity. The current DADT incremental legislation introduced in Congress only covers sexual orientation.

Thanks for the follow up, Juan and Ken.

I'm glad it was just something I missed in my quick skim through -- thanks for pointing me to it, and for including a right/protection for trans/gender-variant people that is almost always overlooked in the larger movement and its incremental push for rights!

Full speed ahead, I say. :)

Everyday Transperson | March 24, 2009 12:47 PM

"We asked attorney Karen Doering, a very experienced and savvy civil rights attorney, to prepare such a proposed bill. It was presented and discussed on our listserv, which includes many of the major donors to the movement and the executive directors of all the major LGBTQ organizations."

Well, my question is why did you present this to the GLBT big shots first rather than presenting this to the broader community for their input ???

From reading the article above, it appears that you all have already come to a consensus as to how this will be drafted and presented to congress, so what is the point of gaining input from the community AFTER the fact ???

We established a process to ensure that we could present specific ideas. This is why we started preparing first a draft of the bill, then we presented it to a few people to ensure that there were not many mistakes, then to a broader group (our listserv) and now to the broader community through this article and our website. For us, it makes sense to prepare a concrete, well-thoughtout product before presenting it to a broader audience.

Our site has the capability to accept comments and in fact an attorney presented a good comment that made us improve our draft.

See: http://www.equalitygiving.org/Blueprint-for-LGBT-Equality

We continue to welcome comments... this is far from decided or introduced yet as legislation.

I read it, and I share Abby's concerns about trans troops. Other than that I'd say it's fine. I'm not really down with the Matthew Shepherd Act, but on the whole it's fine.

As for the politics of it, yeah, the right-wing machine can make anything look bad, but it catches on when it comes to relationship recognition, like we saw in California last year. Then again, LGBTQ acceptance in the military would have its own sticking points, as well as job protections, coming from the military high-brass and big money boys respectively, so either this bill forces them all to work together or it changes the nature of each of those debates to LGBTQ rights instead of military recruitment, labor protections, etc., individually.

That said, of course I'd back something like this however I could. I imagine it would be hard to get someone to introduce it, though.