Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

100 Days - 0% Equal

Filed By Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover | April 29, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: eQualityGiving, hate crimes against LGBT people, legal, LGBT

Today marks the first 100 days of the new administration.

Equal-Index.jpgPresident Obama has been saying that we should hold our government accountable. So, we have created the Legal Equality Index. This is a tool that can be used to hold our leaders accountable. Check its webpage with lots of clear information about the status of LGBT legal equality.

Our Legal Equality Index shows that 40 years after Stonewall, we are still 0% equal.

Keeping the goals in place

Accountability requires us to be informed, active, and vocal. When Speaker Pelosi now says that repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is no longer on the active agenda (essentially moving the goal post), then we should be diligent in pushing to get something else passed, in addition to Hate Crimes and trans-inclusive ENDA. There are eleven other areas of legislation that could be approved.

Blueprint for LGBT equality

Legal equality should be easy to legislate. A large majority of Americans support providing us the same protections that other groups receive, no more, no less. In some cases, it is just a matter of adding "sexual orientation and gender identity and expression" to existing language protecting Americans from discrimination due to race, gender, national origin, religion, etc. eQualityGiving has already done the work of specifying exactly what needs to be done to achieve 100% legal equality and has even proposed specific legislation. Check our Blueprint for LGBT equality.

40 years and still waiting for equality

Some people will point out that the administration and Congress have been busy these 100 days with two wars, an economy in disarray, and a health care crisis now compounded by the potential of a pandemic disease. All this is true.

Others will point out that what needs to be done for LGBT equality is clear and finite. It can be passed quickly, if the commitment and leadership are there. If we continue to wait for all these problems to be resolved in order to get equality, we could be waiting years, maybe forever. We should be reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, Jr:

"A right delayed is a right denied"

In a few weeks, it will be the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall. Four decades later, there are no federal laws protecting LGBT Americans... still waiting for equality.

Getting started

We are looking forward to Congress approving the Hate Crimes bill and President Obama signing it very soon. This will be a welcome first step towards legal equality. We will keep our Legal Equal Index updated and add points as soon as this and any other legislation is signed into law.

Let's work to get to 100% equal quickly.


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While I certainly sympathize with and support the ideals of this effort, the way it's presented is staggeringly arrogant.

Apparently, these folks place no value whatsoever on the advances that have been made at the state and local levels, hard-fought victories that have moved the bar significantly further toward justice and equality and have gotten us to the place where the passage of federal legislation protecting is now realistically possible.

I'll be the first one to agree that the federal government has miserably failed us on this score thus far, but to imply that no progress has been at all just because it hasn't been made at the federal level is shortsighted at best and completely ignorant at worst.

I think it's okay to have a separate ranking for federal law. Juan and Ken were pretty explicit that they weren't blogging about state level legislation, but federal only.

We were surprised by Rebecca's comment given that we provide a very comprehensive analysis of the status of equality at the state level, including a quiz on state equality and a detailed chart and score for each state which can be sorted on six different criteria. Check it here:
http://www.equalitygiving.org/States-of-Equality-and-Gay-Rights-Scorecard

But where does that factor into your "0% Equal"? Do you think those who live in places where SSM is already legal think they have 0% equality? What about LGBT's who live in places where their rights are protected by state and local laws? Do you think they agree with that figure?

Saying we have 0% equality is completely misleading and totally inaccurate. If you're going to try to rate our level of equal rights in this way, at least make the attempt to do so accurately.

The Legal Equality Index refers strictly to federal laws where sexual orientation and gender identity and expression are included as well as equal treatment (such as marriage and military). Since these are not included anywhere in federal laws, we are still at 0%, and have been so since Stonewall 40 years ago. We have hope that this will change with the Obama administration and an equality-friendly majority in the House and Senate.

It is not possible to come up with a single rating combining both state and federal protections since each state is different and the individual circumstances that make a rating relevant vary. Because of this, we have created a separate rating for each state which has been up on our website for more than a year now.

Individuals seeking to assess their level of equality concerning the state level will check the state rating that we provide. When concerned about federal issues (e.g., federal recognition of marriage, immigration rights, serving in the military, or protections not available in their state), they will check the federal Legal Equality Index.

We stand by our separate ratings at the state and federal levels.

Then say it's federal only. I can't see where you make that distinction here. Furthermore, by adding marriage, clearly a state issue, into the mix in your ratings, you exceed your own stated boundaries, unless you honestly believe that Congress is going to do a 180 on everything they've said on the issue and suddenly take up a federal SSM bill. You can't have it both ways.

Holding Congress accountable for lack of progress on an issue it doesn't consider within its purview and has no plans to take up is, once again, misleading and inaccurate.

If your going to rate this stuff, do it credibly and based on actual political reality not on your personal wish lists.

The federal government does not recognize marriage licenses issued to same sex couples and denies them of many important federal benefits.

This is due to the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed by Congress and signed by the president, that affects all same sex marriages independently of the state or foreign jurisdiction in which they were performed.

This is why marriage is, and should be, part of an accurate federal score.

Thank you, Rebecca, for all your comments on this post.

Well, they set their own standards to suit their own position and give the most disheartening view to things.
Obviously some very well informed Projectors do not completely agree with their view. I am one of those.
Were I to design a similar index it would not just be limited to the state of current enacted legislation but would include a look at proposed legislation and support levels for that. It also would include an examination of the current state of articulation of our concerns, how many of us are I elected and appointed positions and the openness to at least hearing our lobby. The treatment of same sex partners of federal employees.
I think that there are many positives here which will lead to the change that we seek. I tend to take a very holistic view and try to see the big picture here.

Well, they set their own standards to suit their own position and give the most disheartening view to things.
Obviously some very well informed Projectors do not completely agree with their view. I am one of those.
Were I to design a similar index it would not just be limited to the state of current enacted legislation but would include a look at proposed legislation and support levels for that. It also would include an examination of the current state of articulation of our concerns, how many of us are I elected and appointed positions and the openness to at least hearing our lobby. The treatment of same sex partners of federal employees.
I think that there are many positives here which will lead to the change that we seek. I tend to take a very holistic view and try to see the big picture here. But that is the difference in approach. It isn't that their results are not useful and informative to some. I find some of their research useful while their final interpretation is not relevant to my own work as an activist.

Rob,

Nobody is denying that progress is happening. But progress in legal equality needs to be measured by legislation enacted.

The truth is that the legislation actually enacted, both at the state level and federal level, is limited. We have had some very high visibility successes in the last few weeks, but when you look at the detailed analysis that we have compiled here:
http://www.equalitygiving.org/States-of-Equality-and-Gay-Rights-Scorecard

you will see that NO STATE offers full legal equality for the LGBT population. Our analysis points out that four are very close. But also that half of the states do not offer even the most basic protections.

At the federal level, the situation is worse. Yesterday, the House of Representatives did pass Hate Crimes (as it did in prior years). We are looking forward to this time being actually enacted. It will be the first major piece of LGBT rights enacted at the federal level since Stonewall--forty years ago. This legislation will "lift all boats" as many states do not have Hate Crimes legislation or it only includes sexual orientation but not gender identity/expression. So, the new federal legislation will be a great help.

In reference to your point that you would look for proposed legislation and other characteristics... our website covers this in detail: www.eQualityGiving.org. Just as examples:

> Analysis of different strategies:
http://www.equalitygiving.org/Strategic-Giving-for-Equality

> Strategies for each equality goal:
http://www.equalitygiving.org/Strategies-for-each-Equality-Goal?null

> Each equality goal analyzed by impact, reachability, and investment
http://www.equalitygiving.org/Giving-Equality-Goals

The last two links require you to register on the site since it contains confidential information that we do not wish to provide to the anti-gay forces.

Finally, you express that you would do the index differently to include other factors. This is fine. Our indexes for federal and state are based on actual legislation eacted, since this is the only way to measure legal equality.

Thanks for the links. I'll look at them.

There has been one major progress this past Wednesday (beside the Hate Crimes win in the House.) Diane Schroer received nearly a half million from the Library of Congress on her discrimination case. When has a trans person won on a federal level at that amount? Never.