Sunday, December 06, 2009

Gay Rights Bills Set To Move in the House

Two openly gay members in the House, Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Jared Polis (D-CO), are optimistic about the prospects of gay rights legislation in the House:
Speaking to an international conference of gay politicians in San Francisco, U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., said they expect a domestic partner benefits bill to come up for a vote by the end of the year and the employment bill to reach the floor early in 2010.

The lawmakers said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic.

The Obama administration also sent a representative to the conference, and he came out firing:
Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration's highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.
"The tide of public opinion is in our favor. The forces of intolerance are on the run. We have a president who has been clear in his support for our community and in his commitment to our equality," Berry said. "This is the best opportunity we will ever have as a community, and shame on us if we don't succeed."

"Forces of intolerance". Only a few years ago, that would have been a huge story by itself.

Finally, Baldwin and Polis had some words for allies flambeing President Obama for not moving fast enough on the issue:
Although gay activists have criticized President Barack Obama for not moving more quickly on their concerns, both Polis and Baldwin said the pressure should be directed at Congress because the president can not act alone.

"LGBT leaders need to be focusing in on the people we need to win over instead of just trying to talk to our friends and being angry they haven't delivered," Polis said.

Maybe PG and Joe can move their never-ending battle over to this thread?


joe said...

Okay, that is encouraging. We'll see what comes of it.

PG said...

Yes, and it's not high-minded principle, it's butt-covering on a civil rights issue. One that probably doesn't expose him to much risk in the first place.

It's Marion Berry's job to vote one way or the other on DC marriage equality. It's a really questionable use of the executive's stop-loss power -- which itself is granted by Congress through statute, not by the Constitution -- to do an end-run on a statutory requirement on military service that one not be openly gay. I just can't take seriously people who bitched for the last 8 years about Bush's abuses of executive power, who are now telling Obama that he's "butt-covering" if he doesn't use any available executive power to circumvent Congress.

But David's original post is right that we should keep in mind what the LGBT community says about all this. I don't know about you, but the members of that community I know personally are generally very disappointed with Obama, and (if they're being charitable) say he is delaying and passing the buck.

The ones I know who are lawyers who take seriously matters like the separation of powers agree with the White House that the proper way to end DADT is for Congress to change the law, not for the president to circumvent it. Folks like John Aravosis who are looking for cheap shots to take at Obama have conveniently forgotten all their concerns about executive overreach.

But I'm not sure why you even see this as relevant since it mostly relates to the power of the purse, surely at least as legislative an issue as the management of military personnel.

Congress explicitly gave the White House broad powers in its administration of both the bailout and stimulus funds, because in an emergency the executive is best-positioned to respond swiftly to changing conditions. This is why the executive also is commander in chief; we'd get slaughtered in every war if we had to wait for Congress to decide on troop movements. What, exactly, is the changing condition to which only the executive can respond with regard to DADT? Seems like inequality is inequality all the time, not just when reserve units are on active duty.