At the opening plenary at the National LGBT Bar Association this morning, before hundreds of lawyers from around the country, there was a panel presentation entitled Real Change: LGBT Issues and the Administration.
There were several speakers on the panel, including some from the Administration, as well as Paul M. Smith, a partner in the venerable D.C. mega-law firm of Jenner & Block.
Mr. Smith is no wild-eyed radical. He heads up the firm's Appellate and Supreme Court practice and is co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Lambda Legal. He argued on the winning side in the 2003 Supreme Court case of Lawrence v, Texas, which overturned the sodomy laws, as well as a dozen other Supreme Court cases. He's being honored this year by the National Law Journal as one of the 40 most influential lawyers of the past decade. He attended Yale Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell.
I couldn't believe my eyes when he held up a copy of GetEqual's ENDA Timeline of Broken Promises, and waved it before the assembled throng.
The other members of the panel included Elaine Kaplan, General Counsel at the US Office of Personnel Management, Matt Nosanchuk, of the US Attorney's Office, Jon Davidson, Legal Director of Lambda Legal, Tobias Barrington Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and who formerly worked with President Obama's campaign, and Courtney Joslin, law professor at UC Davis and chair of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
The members of the Administration first defended the Administration's record on LGBT issues, and I must say they were rather convincing with regard to specifically the numerous things the Administration has moved on. I was a bit surprised at their claiming credit for the legislative progress on hate crimes. If you're going to claim credit for legislative accomplishments, then it's not illogical for people to ding you for lack of progress on other legislative initiatives that you supposedly support, like ENDA.
But then Jon Davidson spoke, and listed a dozen items that he felt the Administration should be doing. He also specifically mentioned the Congress and its poor record.
And then Paul Smith spoke. He has a natural authority and authenticity that charms his audience, and despite my residual tiredness from last evening's activities (remind me to tell you the story), I found myself interested in what he was saying.
He discussed the legislative agenda, and specifically referenced ENDA, saying that he did not understand the argument by Speaker Pelosi that work on ENDA had to stop while DADT repeal is proceeding.
He then held up a sheaf of papers, and waved it at the audience.
"I went to the internet and printed out from GetEqual's website a list of the promises that have been made on ENDA, and it's astounding the number of promises that been made over the years. I don't understand why no progress is being made on this."
I wanted to stand up and cheer. I went to him afterwards and thanked him for raising the issue.
Why isn't any progress being made on ENDA? Why have so many attacked GetEqual for raising the issue of these broken promises? Thank you, Mr. Smith, for being courageous and authentic in raising these broken promises and seeking to hold our political leaders accountable.