Guest Blogger

LGBT Civil Rights legislation: Let's be bold

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 13, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: civil rights legislation, Congress, David Mixner, Democrats, employment discrimination, ENDA, lesbian, LGBT

Editors' note: Guest blogger David Mixner is former strategist and adviser to several presidential campaigns, including those for McGovern, Clinton, and Gephardt. He currently works as an activist for AIDS, LGBT rights, and wildlife. David writes from Turkey Hollow, his home in upstate New York.

congresssnow.jpgAfter the passage of Proposition 8, it is even more crucial to look at our national agenda and see if it fits this new century and new president. For almost thirty years we have been pushing the passage of basically the same Employment Non-Discrimination Act and Hate Crimes legislation. While extremely good work has been done on both these efforts, the bills actually might be outdated now. It's time to reorganize our collective thought processes so we don't inadvertantly let our friends in the Congress and the President off the hook.

We have nothing to lose as a community to carefully and respectfully discuss what makes sense as our agenda this coming year. Just simply to pass a civil rights bill that was written decades ago, while symbolic, might not be the correct course. Clearly Hate Crimes continue to escalate in the country but quite honestly with our margin in the senate and President-elect Obama in the White House, the passage of such legislation should be a slamdunk for the LGBT community. If it isn't, then we have to seriously question our Democratic friends.

Is now the time for us to consider an omnibus civil rights bill that includes a great deal more than just employment non-discrimination? If we take our rights one piece of legislation at a time the process could take forever. What about a new all-encompassing bill that would, besides employment, also include immigration rights, social security rights, and a repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell?' This is just a partial list and I understand that with 'don't ask, don't tell' we might want to proceed separately. But surely out of the over 1,000 rights, benefits, protections and privileges denied to us and given to other Americans we can find many of them to include in such a new piece of legislation.

Even some hardcore Republicans now talk about how they believe in civil unions. What about a piece of legislation that repeals DOMA and at the same time requires other states to recognize civil unions that are legal elsewhere? Now, I am the first to admit drafting legislation is not my strong suit but I do know we are ostensibly operating in a different environment and that realignment might give us the edge to enjoy the best political situation that we have had in a number of years.

Let's be bold and think out of the box. Our national leadership should not ask us to settle for just the old standard but instead show us they understand the new political opportunities that are presented to us in the next two years.

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Sounds great, David.

I think there already is something in place that ought to make DOMA invalid, thus requiring states to recognize each others marriages and/or second tier relationship recognitions - it's called the US Constitution.

The Clinton administration took a crap on the full faith and credit clause (not to mention due process and equal protections) when it put DOMA in effect.

It sure is unfortunate that we couldn't rely upon Democrats to defend our constitutional rights 12+ years ago...can we rely on them to do it now?

What has changed to make us think THEY are willing to do now what they would not do then?

ENDA is not at all the same bill it has been for thirty years, not even close. Originally it was an omnibus bill, then pared down to employment only, trans protections added then taken away, etc.

Further, I think it's probably pretty unrealistic to think were going to get an omnibus bill passed. Look at how long it's taken to get just the watered down versions we have now to be seriously considered, regardless of who's been in office at the time.

I don't know what planet Mixner lives on, but it's definitely not the one with our federal government in charge.

Anyone who thinks Congress will do more than the barest minimum for us at most is kidding themselves.

Just add sexual orientation and gender identity to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

ENDA etc was always a compromise. It was thought that by paring down and paring down and paring down, there'd be less opposition. But the opponents have stuck to exactly the same line as they always have.

There is a HUGE difference in practice between ENDA and Title VII protection, but our opponents don't concede that difference. So if we can pass ENDA, we can pass Title VII amendment, the opposition would be exactly the same.

While it may seem to be a good way to do it, you'll immediately run up against a brick wall. The Civil Rights Act is considered untouchable by the civil rights old guard, and whose support is necessary. It would be Prop 8 all over again.

I think you're exactly right, David. I've often wondered why we're only pursuing employment protection while leaving housing and public accommodations behind in the dust. Let's make legislation more inclusive of our needs.

Tacking us on to the civil rights act might be hard, but i could get behind an omnibus bill.

The more talk about "civil rights" the better, as marriage equality is a civil right that we are being denied. Joan Gary made a good point in her OpEd posted on Huffington, that the new adminstration should move forward to include members of the LGBT community to serve on the Civil Rights Commission.