DOMA will not be repealed before ENDA gets passed.
Of the four main pieces of LGBT legislation that the Administration said it wants to pass - hate crimes, ENDA, DOMA, DADT - repealing DOMA will be the hardest. It has the least public support. Unlike hate crimes and ENDA, a similar bill to repeal a state-level DOMA has never been passed. There's a large part of the country that's really OK with most of our rights except for the word marriage, which is how a fight against DOMA will be characterized.
Oh, and you know that super-secret meeting Pelosi, Frank, Baldwin, and Polis had to talk strategy about LGBT legislation in the House last week? They met to discuss moving DADT-repeal, health benefits for federal workers, Baldwin's health care reform bill, and ENDA forward. DOMA wasn't even on their list of things to talk about.
It's understandable from a career politician's point of view - if we prove that we're not committed enough to get a bill like ENDA passed, do not expect Representatives and Senators to go out on a limb to repeal DOMA. The only reason they'd want to help us out now is to look progressive and make a constituency that has nowhere else to go happy. That's not much. So if a bill that says that we should be treated as equals in the workplace can't pass, they're not going to jeopardize their political careers for a bill that says our relationships are equal to those of heterosexuals'.
Congressmembers want committed, energetic, and smart allies. Obama has committed to signing ENDA if it reaches his desk. This is our chance to prove our meddle.
ENDA will be the beginning, not the end.
No, it won't be a panacea. It's not full equality. It won't stop all anti-gay and anti-trans discrimination.
But you know what it will do? Make the Religious Right's collective head explode.
Right now they're coasting after nearly four decades of movement conservatism. They know their days are numbered, that they've been marginalized by two years of Republican defeat in elections. But it's not as bad as it'll be when we start winning. And ENDA would be a huge loss from their perspective.
It'll be the first time Congress officially recognized us as a minority worth protecting. The Religious Right will conjure up images of quotas and Christians sent to prisons and businesses sued out of existence and every other trope they've been pushing ever since Nixon took office and why? Because they have nothing else, nothing other than admitting that they want straight people to have the power to fire us for not fucking the right person, for not expressing our gender the right way, or for having the audacity to suggest that we know more than others how our body should have been configured.
Firing people for being LGBT is supposed to be punitive, and the Moral Majority folks know it. The minute the most basic and prevalent form of discrimination against us gets banned is the same minute they get labeled as fringe, and it's the same minute that other protections become less extreme-sounding, and it's the same minute we get loads of press coverage and people start to think, "Maybe my ick feelings when thinking about them are just unfounded prejudice instead of traditional values."
ENDA's a first step, and everyone in this game knows that. But we have to take that first step to get the ball rolling.
Passing ENDA will take work, but we can do it.
Barney Frank said at a press conference:
"We can now take for granted that there will be a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, almost certainly this calendar year, on a fully inclusive ENDA," Frank said.
Minutes later, he added, "We are on track to pass this bill in the House this year."
Last week I was on a conference call with Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality (TBP contributors Jillian Weiss and Rebecca Juro were on it too), and Keisling clarified that we're "on track" if we continue to do the unglamorous work of citizen lobbying that we've been doing.
And let me tell my gay brothers what I also found out on that conference call: the trans folk are putting us to shame. They've been vigorously calling and writing letters and making contact with their members of Congress on this bill, and we need to get ourselves in gear and start to work on this as well.
I'm launching a website today (with lots of help from Jillian Weiss, the Inclusive ENDA Facebook group, and the publications of several LGBT orgs) to help organize information to lobby Congress on ENDA and to track its progress: ENDA Central. Here's the message about what you can do on the front page:
1. Join the Inclusive ENDA Facebook group and click "Invite People To Join" to get your friends involved. We have strength in numbers.
2. Call your representative, express your support for an inclusive ENDA, and get their position on ENDA. If they don't support ENDA, explain why it's important that they vote for it. If they support ENDA, ask them to cosponsor ENDA. If they're already a cosponsor, thank them!
Learn more about calling your representative, and feel free to use these talking points to prepare. Find out who your representative is here and call the Capitol at 202-224-3121. Email what you find out to ENDAcampaign@gmail.com.
3. Sign up to visit your representative in your district. Once we know who's already supportive and who needs some more persuading, we'll work to set up face-to-face meetings with representatives in their districts during the summer recess in August.
4. Make some noise for ENDA. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Blog, tweet (#enda), and comment about ENDA. Discuss ENDA with the people you know. Someone else might be inspired to take action based on your leadership and energy.
5. Get creative. The goal of website is to inspire and equip you to help pass ENDA. Do what you can to get members of Congress on our side. If you have a good idea, email us to let us know about it at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deb Price just opened her recent column:
How many gay voters does it take to change a member of Congress?
Probably not that many. But they need to ask the lawmaker to change.
Letters, e-mails, phone calls, visits.
They're what transforms Congress.
This isn't the only means to change, granted. But it's part of the way these bills are going to get passed.
Take some time and do what you can to help out this effort. I'm not asking you for money, I'm asking for your time and effort. But in the end, I guarantee you, it'll be worth it just for the hysterical Pat Robertson video clips it'll produce.