Rebecca Juro

The Democratic Party's New LGBT "Equality" Agenda: Big Words, Short Arms

Filed By Rebecca Juro | January 08, 2011 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: Democratic Party, ENDA, LGBT civil rights

It's really interesting to see how mainstream cable newsmedia is lauding the Democratically-controlled 111th Congress for getting so much done. hope-change.jpgIt's not entirely undeserved of course, but when one takes a close look at what actually did get done this past session of Congress in terms of protecting and ensuring equal civil rights for all Americans, we find that their actual results are really not quite as impressive as some would like us to believe.

The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is a great example of what I'm talking about here. Long overdue to be sure, but also only actually impacting the lives of just a tiny fraction of a single percent of the American LGBT workforce, just like the rest of the "progress" made on LGBT rights by this administration thus far, mainly by Executive Order of one form or another.

What about the rest of us, the majority of the American LGBT workforce who work in the private sector or for state and local governments in areas of the country without laws which protect their LGBT citizens? Well, apparently neither the mainstream news media nor the Democratic Congressional leadership felt we were worthy of their attention over the last two years, so for the vast majority of LGBT American civilian workers and jobseekers things continue to be just as rough as they've ever been, even rougher in fact, what with the higher-than-normal number of straight job applicants and a lower-than-normal number of available jobs out there just in general.

Despite the Democratic Party leadership's seemingly continuous promises to introduce and vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during the 111th Congress, when push came to shove left-wing pundit and politician alike wrapped themselves in the flag, focused in like a laser on the fight to protect just the miniscule fraction of LGBT Americans who work for the government, and patted themselves on the back for a job well done as the Democrats once again threw the bulk of the American LGBT workforce and our families back under the bus for at least another 2-4 years.

And so once again a self-congratulatory Democratic Congress and Administration along with its attendant liberal mainstream media flotilla sails off into the sunset, flags flying so proudly and brass buttons shining so brightly in the sun, leaving behind the bulk of the American LGBT workforce and our families, unnoticed, uncommented upon, unprotected.

Someone remind me please: Exactly when was all that "CHANGE" stuff supposed to kick in?

I don't know about you, but I'm having a really hard time seeing any actual differences between the way things were for the vast majority of LGBT American workers under Clinton and Bush and the way they are now, after two years of Mr. Fierce Advocate and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. I mean, sure, we've made some significant progress here and there at the state and local levels, but when it comes to the really big ticket federal items, the kind of legislation that can actually make a difference in people's lives, the kind we waited nearly a generation for the Democrats to have the necessary majorities in Congress and control of the White House to finally enact into law as they promised, unless you're one of the relative handful who's employed by the federal government in some capacity, the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress didn't deliver very much which will help make your life better as an LGBT American.

Yes, it's great that LGBT Americans are now protected by a federal hate crimes law. It's also great that for the first time in the history of our nation LGBT Americans are defined as a protected class under federal law. That happened in this Congress, and it's worthy of both notice and commendation. Thing is, since the protections of this law only kick in once a serious violent crime has been committed and an LGBT person is likely already seriously injured or dead, it's difficult to see this law as actually protecting anyone from anything. In the end, all the hate crimes law does is help ensure that the perpetrator of a hate crime serves a tougher, more just sentence than they would otherwise, and that those hate crimes are more accurately tracked by law enforcement officials than they had been in the past. It doesn't actually improve anyone's life or actually protect anyone from anything, it simply helps to balance the scales of justice once someone's life has already been made horribly worse or taken from them entirely, not at all the same thing.

Again, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Democrats don't deserve credit for all that they did get accomplished in the 111th. At the same time, though, I also think that's it's important that we don't forget that the Democrats have once again failed to deliver on their promises for the vast majority of LGBT American working families, even though they swore up and down to us a thousand times that this time it would be different with firm control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

Once again, even with the political winds at the their backs and firm control of the legislative agenda this time, the Democratic Congressional leadership and the White House still wimped out and took the easy, cowardly way out in advocating for basic civil rights for all Americans, and once again, American LGBT workers and our families will continue paying the price for their cowardice for years to come.

Have we finally had enough now?

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This seems a little too pessimistic to me. While I agree that these changes affect a fewer number of people, the fact remains that incrementally is how things change rather than all at once. The normalizing of GLBT issues is a path, one which we are on and moving in the right direction. In retrospect, look how far we have come in our lifetimes. I can remember being too timid to wear pink for fear of bullying. That was real. Now its becoming a memory. Slowly but surely. Like losing weight for the long term. Work, for certain, but worth working for.

I'm sorry Doug, but this incrementalist nonsense just doesn't fly anymore. Not when it takes them 17 years to protect just a fraction of 1% of LGBT Americans. The truth is that the American people are far beyond this crap and we have been for a long time. It's the political cowardice and anti-LGBT bigotry of those in Congress which are the true stumbling blocks here.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 8, 2011 7:04 PM

1. The prospects for repeal of Bill Clintons DADT and passage of ENDA are very unlikely because the WH and the Congress are controlled by parties opposed to both, just like they were during last two years.

2. Obama's pulled a Clinton and aligned himself to work with Clintonistas and Republicans by appointing them to key positions. (It's a repeat of Clintons strategy after Republicans won the house in the 1990's.) Now Obama's appointed fellow Chicagoan Bill Daley as his chief advisor. "Daley, brother of outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, was Commerce Secretary under Bill Clinton, the chief architect of NAFTA... and, most recently, Midwest chairman of JP Morgan Chase. He shares the corporate centrism of Emanuel and, when it comes to economic issues, may be worse. AFL-CIO head John Sweeney once said that Daley stood squarely on the opposite side of working families.'”

3. 'Incrementalism' is another term for submission.

David Kaufman David Kaufman | January 9, 2011 8:03 AM

I can't help but question the motivations of this posting. At a time of potential national crisis --when true allies of LGBT progress are literally being shot down in our faces -- a "community" thinker has come up with yet another "what has Obama done for me" treatise. "Thrown under the bus"; "all that 'CHANGE' stuff"; "Obama is the new Bush" -- shame on you Rebecca Juro for being yet another cog in the LGBT self-immolation machine.
And what about a little original thinking? These kinds of meme-cliches are so, like, 2009!

What has Obama done for you Juno -- what have YOU done for yourself, your "community", all those LGBT families you so recklessly banter about.

The forces of evil are literally raising arms against you and the folks you claim to care so passionately about.

It's time to cut the crap, stop the whining and begin to attack our real enemies out there.

If not, postings -- and posturings -- like the one by this author are literally going to get us killed!

Actually, it's less about what Obama has done for me lately and more about what the Democratic Party has done to me (and the rest of us) for the last forty years.

You see, the problem is that if one does not keep the pressure on the Democratic Party constantly, one finds that political cowardice will eventually rule the day among Democrats. We've seen it over and over:

Democrats make promises, we believe, we vote for them, we donate to them, they get into office and all of those promises are quickly forgotten.

That's exactly what happened in the 111th. Democrats swore up and down to us for years, decades in fact, that once they had control of the White House and both Houses of Congress that they'd pass ENDA into law. Yet, the first time that was finally the case Democrats chickened out just like they always do, passed just the lowest hanging fruit, and left the rest of us twisting in the wind.

This is what you want us to stand up for? People who treat us like this? Forget it! Democrats have taught us yet again that the only way to make our point with these people is to hurt them, to threaten so much damage to them politically that they have no choice but to deal with us.

The way I look at it we now have two solid years to make our point with these people and make sure they do not forget which side their bread is buttered on this time. If it doesn't sink in by 2012, there are ways to begin making our point in earnest. I strongly suspect that if Obama and the Democrats do not make ENDA a primary plank of their platform in the next election, we will and the Democrats will not like the way we go about making our points to the American public.

Seriously? When the D's were campaigning on 2008 there were 4 promises of note.

1. Repeal DADT.
2. Pass Hate Crimes
3. Pass ENDA
4. Repeal DOMA.

50% of our major legislative agenda has been passed in two years.

Please, ask the Unions, ask the Environmental advocates, the Immigration community, or any other group working on specific policy if they have fared that well.

When is it good enough for you? Do you really hold the same barometer for success that a two year old does - I'm going to cry until I get everything that I want.

Listing LGBT individuals as a protected class isn't just noteworthy it is historic. It is a bedrock principle that will allow other legislation to be passed. DADT was repealed as the first ever stand alone vote in the U.S. Congress on positive LGBT legislation.

Incrementalism is not submission, it is reality. Just as Rome was not built in a day, neither has any Legislative agenda been passed in one.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 9, 2011 10:59 PM

Don't sell Obama short. First of all you left out two Easter egg parties on the White House Lawn. They represent a mind boggling opportunity for social advancement and even more invitations. Of course they won't be addressed Wife and Wife or Husband and Husband but still, we can't have it all, can we? As it is it's almost too thrilling to bear.

I misspoke. Incrementalism is abject submission. Of the four items you list two are relatively unimportant because they do little to improve our lives.

The hate crimes bill lacks focus and harsh penalties. It should be focused on cult bigots and political bigots who call for violence openly or simply by suggesting that we're less than human.

The repeal of the Democrats DADT ends legally required bigotry but will do nothing to protect GLBT GIs from the aggressive bigotry of the ultra right officer corps or to provide them with spousal benefits, forbidden by Dixiecrat Bill Clintons DOMA.

Two items on the list would create the openings for major improvements in our lives. ENDA, if it's stripped of all bigotry added when Democrat Barney Frank gutted it in 2007 will open the way for a legal assault against widespread workplace discrimination. It doesn't really cover housing, public services, etc. and doesn't include draconian punishments so those issues will have to be addressed separately.

Repeal of Democrat Bill Clintons DOMA is less important than passing ENDA or alternatively, our inclusion in existing civil rights laws but when it occurs it'll be a signal victory over bigots like the Clintons, the Bushes, McCain, Palin, Obama and Biden.

Incrementalism has a history in this country and all of it bad. How long for suffrage? What about racism? Lots of pretty laws were passed, including a set of Constitutional amendments to end it but racism remains the institutionalized law of the land. The evidence can be found in the stats of who's unemployed, who's been shoved back into poverty and who's living in Obamavilles. Who hired last and fired first.

Incrementalism prays, which is what we say because we don't think sucking is such a bad thing at all.

David Kaufman David Kaufman | January 9, 2011 10:20 AM

Which is how, exactly? So much LGBT posturing and so little action. The only thing these homo-threats have done is help create an environment that ushered in a repub-majority House and the kinds of psychos who shoot truly Democratic politicians.

You know what -- let's say it like it is:


What action are you going to take. What protest are you going to make. What sacrifices are you willing to endure to ensure your demands are met?

What are you willing to give up? Willing to lose?

And what exactly is the strategy you have beyond typing letters onto your computer screen.

Because that is what it takes to ensure true political progress.

It's all-talk/no-action folks like you that have rendered this "movement" impotent, leaderless and rudderless.

When you've paused your "complain" button and activated your "action" button, please get back to me.

You want to see how I take action, David? You're reading it. For another way, tune into the re-premiere of my Internet radio (this Thurs. 7pm eastern, for reals this time).

Furthermore David, you don't know me. You don't know what kind of activist I am, what I've done or haven't done, or really anything else about me other than this blog post apparently because if you did you'd probably realize just how far off-base you actually are.

Chitown Kev | January 9, 2011 9:30 PM

And just what have you done, kaufman, other than shoot down anyone who has even the slightest criticism of the President, and I mean the SLIGHTEST criticism.

The forces of evil are literally raising arms against you and the folks you claim to care so passionately about.

Dude you really need to quit with that "forces of evil" rhetoric. Seriously.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | January 9, 2011 11:24 PM

"The only thing these homo-threats have done is help create an environment that ushered in a repub-majority House and the kinds of psychos who shoot truly Democratic politicians.

The lack of knowledge that would lead someone to sya that is hard to comprehend.

1) By "homo threats" Kaufman no doubt means the huge progress in our communities towards independence from bigots like Obama and bonerboy.

2) The Republican majority in the house was created entirely by Democrats who betrayed everyone but the looter class. They escalated Obama's four wars. They gave trillions to the rich who destroyed our economy. They busted unions, cut wages and absolutely refusing to do anything significant to lower the poverty and mass unemployment that were caused by Clinton and Bush.

3) Saying that those opposed to the bigotry of Obama and the Democrats (and their Republican litter mates) had anything at all to do with the atmosphere that led to the shootings in the Springs is an infamous lie.

4) The atmosphere that created the epidemic of assassinations and mass murders has everything to do with US genocide and mass murder in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan, among others. It has everything to do with rage about the world's largest prison population, mass poverty, unemployment and wages cuts. It has nothing to do with the righteous anger of all layers of society (except the rich) against the betrayals of Obama and the Congress.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | January 9, 2011 10:23 PM

We have plenty of people that talk and complain. We have too few people that talk, complain and then DO.

Hate Crimes? Repeal of DADT? Transgender people getting passports? GLB and T people hired in senior capacities? Gender Identity protections added to non discrimination for federal employees.

that's just a sample of things! In 2004 you'd never hear the term, "transgender" spoken ... or at least in a positive light.

Yeah, no difference than when Bush was President!
You can ignore all the reality you want ... You may not have had anything to do with the progress of the last 6 years... the last 2 years, but that doesn't mean nothing happened, nor does it mean that there could have been more accomplished. My take is that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem! I know that won't get you attention!

give me a break Becky!

All low hanging fruit, Babs. You know as well as I do how long the Dems were promising us ENDA once they had the majorities they needed (they actually got more than they said they needed) and control of the White House and you know how quickly ENDA fell off the schedule (a-gain) once they were safely past the '08 election.

You also seem to forget how quickly Bush rolled back all those gay-positive Clinton Executive Orders once he took office. You may call that real progress, but I don't.

Give me a break, Babs!

David Kaufman David Kaufman | January 10, 2011 8:26 AM

Besides parroting the tired rhetoric of so many of your ilk.

I suggest perhaps begin with some original thinking!
The greatest tragedy of your posting above is that we've simply heard it all before.....

I don't parrot anyone, David. I create my own rhetoric, thank you very much. If you actually read my work instead of just obviously spouting off with near-zero information, you'd know that. Seems like you're the one in need of some original thinking, dude.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | January 10, 2011 12:27 PM

No Becky, I won't give you a break!

Did you step forward to really understand the dynamics why DADT passed and the less controversial ENDA failed?

When Garden State Equality offered to bring NJ folks to DC to lobby for ENDA and put them uo overnight and feed them dinner... did you show up and help?


I'm sick and tired of the whining without a path for success... we have too many complainers and too few who actually DO!

I'm unhappy with folks like Barney Frank, who on leadership of ENDA, could not hold a candle to Democrats Patrick Murphy or Kirstin Gillibrand who were tenacious and got it done with DADT! But to paint Democrats in a broad swath for getting things done against a united Republican front to kill everything LGBT positive is baloney!

Do you realize that every single Republican voted to kill the Hate Crimes bill? 100% every one including the sponsors! Yeah... kumbaya with the repugnicans, Becky!

Sorry, no break! You want to pick on individuals.. go do your homework and get facts, but you can't handle the big paintbrush!

Ok Babs, tell you what: Let's get into it on my show next week (we re-premiere this Thursday with guest Autumn Sandeen), the 20th.

We'll lay out our arguments, ask the listeners what they think, and then leave it up to them to decide who's right and who's wrong.

Up for it?

blakebrown55 | January 10, 2011 4:44 PM

Once again, the so-called leaders and bitching, moaning and whining about what "they" didn't get. I have never spoken to one of these individuals, so I cannot say if they have been told exactly how the congress works. Let us start with the house. Every bill Nancy Pelosi brought to the house floor PASSED! She and the Democrats sent 400+ bills to the senate where most of them sat and died.

On to the senate, where it takes 60 votes to get even get a bill to the floor for a final vote. I hear voices like Rachel Maddow, and others condescendingly talking about having huge majority in the house and the senate and not getting anything done. I know that in theory that would be true if there were 60 liberal senators, but there are approximately 40-45 senators that were willing to vote on the bills that came from the house, but there are or shall I say were, 10-15 "blue dog" Democrats (Republican lite) who have no intention on supporting our President or the alleged liberal agenda. This is a topic that needs some clarification. When the spokes people for the LGBT community talk about the gay/LGBT agenda, they need to specify that they mean the white LGBT agenda. When discussing what needs to be done to help gay people, my black friends and myself do not speak of DADT (Don't Ask Don't Tell, brought into being by stupid ass Bill Clinton) or gay marriage. We discuss the fact that we are still being infected HIV and dying of AIDS. We talk about not having anyone who on the Human Right Campaign (HRC) and other comparable organizations to make sure that all view points are represented. We wonder why the liberal establishment doES not inquire why there are no black and Latino faces present to represent our segments of LGBT community. It seems that the black and Latino LGBT communities are treated in much the same way as it was during the Jim Crow era, as an after thought.

I honestly believe the true face of the LBGT community was in clear focus on election night 2008 when the California marriage ballot measure was defeated and there were shouts of nigger-this, nigger-that, blaming black people for voting against allowing gays and lesbians to marry, while no one did any outreach to our community or made any attempt to convince black voters that the issue is truly one of civil rights. No, anger, blame and separation were on full display.

Lastly, let us talk about change. A campaign slogan. One that was taken too literally. We can change politicians at every election cycle, but until we change the leaders of the groups and organizations that supposedly represent the LGBT community to ones who will begin to include blacks and Latinos from the start of the discussion, nothing will ever change. I believe that most of leaders of these groups were and still are staunch Hillary Clinton supporters and are still very reluctant Obama supporters. Their language and attitudes say to me that they are only tolerating the president and that he "owes" them something for their vote. I am not exactly sure what change they wanted. If they wanted something magical then maybe they should have nominated magician David Blain or maybe even Jesus since he was able to feed the multitude with a few loaves of bread and some fish. I am sure that these "disappointed" people will suggest a primary challenger to the president instead of being logical and working to elect more liberal senators and congress members.

@ David Kaufman, I would like to point out what I am seeing here. Some criticize the Democrats for not delivering, others criticize Gay Inc for betraying our community in the cottage industry of the equality fight.

As a MA activist I have seen a lot. The connection between the Democratic Party and our lgb(t) leadership is what concerns me most. I see many times Gay Inc being used as a tool for election of Democrats and it taking orders from Dem leadership in campaign strategies that may or may not be directly in our best interest. MA's own Trans Bill had the majority support in both Houses last year yet it never reached a vote because the Democrats played politics around the election and MassEquality listened and obeyed. No one, not even this blog reported on what happened with our bill.

We also hear that ENDA had the votes ?? There are many theories going around as to why ENDA was not passed. Connections and timing around DADT Repeal is one, though Frank and Baldwin know and so did the HRC yet they all are still not being open with us.

The author of this post sees what our movement was and what it has become. Many of us recognize that trans people are the ones whose BASIC rights and protections get backburnered and dumped every time our lgb(t) organizations and the Democrats strategize together. Maryland for example right now...we understand WHAT is happening to trans people in these two blatantly discriminatory bills, yet the WHY has not yet been spelled out. We will figure it out soon and be prepared for a very very pissed off group of people--TG/TS people who have been betrayed yet once again together with activists like myself and the author of this post and many others who refuse to keep the blinders on.