Well, I'm back from my traveling weekend, and, while I was gone, two major stories broke about the Obama Administration and LGBT legislation. I wanted to tackle this one first, but I'll have a post about the Department of Justice brief later in the day.
John Berry, who's openly gay and works for the Obama adminstration, talked with The Advocate late last week about the administration's LGBT legislative goals: hate crimes, ENDA, DADT, DOMA, in that order.
But it seems like they're worried about getting these bills passed, that they might not have enough votes even for hate crimes legislation (not that I would be too upset if they left it behind and started working immediately on a fully-inclusive ENDA):
We don't have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now, we don't have the votes to do ENDA, how are we going [to get "don't ask, don't tell]?
One could argue that the Administration didn't have the votes necessary to get the stimulus package or the IMF bailout, but that's meant to be a starting point for work on this subject, not an excuse to put off the issue.
The real question is: "Why do conservatives still have so much political power?"
I've noticed that LGBT people are less patient with the Obama administration than they were with the Bush Administration. We're yelling more, we've started to call for "full equality now," and even the mainstream media is picking up on it with glee.
I suppose it was less patience and more resignation when Bush was in office; everyone pretty much knew that he wasn't going to sign anything LGBT-friendly into law and there weren't nearly enough votes in Congress to overcome a veto. So instead we put our work into getting Obama in office.
So now, some 6 months into the Obama administration, after 8 years of a Bush administration, we're left asking ourselves why nothing's really changed. The public is there on ENDA, hate crimes legislation, and DADT. Gallup reports that 69% of the public wants DADT overturned. A 2007 Gallup poll found that the public favored adding LGBT people to hate crimes legislation 68-27. Another Gallup poll found that 89% of Americans thought gays should have the same job opportunities as everyone else. And even an HRC poll found that 65% of people support transgender employment protections.
This shouldn't be too hard. Less popular laws than these have passed Congress before. In fact, when it comes to employment discrimination, it should at least be enough to have one party lock-step in our favor.
So the question comes back to why a small sector of the population (11% on SO ENDA, 35% on GI/GE ENDA, 27% on hate crimes, and less than 31% on DADT) should have the power to control those laws. Let's face it, they have more political power than the rest of us do.
I think part of the problem is that we haven't been our own best advocates as LGBT issues got set up as toxic, both when Kerry lost in 2004 and the mainstream media blamed it on same-sex marriage (the numbers didn't show that, but whatever, it was easily digestible analysis) and when, right after the election, the Washington media decided that the real problem with the Clinton administration in the beginning was the he went too far left on gays in the military, when the clearer reading of Clinton's fumble there was that it was his first skirmish with the military brass, he was a Democrat, and they had to flex their muscle on something.
Then, after all those ballot initiatives passed, even in California, it apparently convinced some of these people that LGBT issues will screw up everything else. I'm guessing they didn't separate same-sex marriage from other LGBT issues, even though it's by far the least popular of all legislative reforms out there that relate to queer people.
All that taken in with the fact that after 2004 many in the the Democratic Party decided that it had to get conservative Christian voters with olive branches (read: capitulate on LGBT and reproductive freedom issues), we were further marginalized when it comes to political power.
So now they're scared and, the way I read that Advocate interview, the Administration will try to get hate crimes legislation passed as well as legislation to stop discrimination of federal employees on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation (when it comes to benefits). Everything else, since they don't have a plan or a timeframe on them, seems to be left to Congress to lead. And we can all guess how that'll work out.
One more tidbit from the interview:
One of the first things I want to be clear about is that there are a lot of charges that there's been some secret deal or backroom deal, there isn't one. There isn't one, there is no secret deal. We are working in partnership with all LGBT groups, and all groups are doing what they should be doing, which is passionately representing their unique interests.
Can that rumor die now? Please?