Our rights are on the plate, but we have to make Congress act

By |2009-09-10T09:00:00-04:00September 10th, 2009|Uncategorized|

Supporters and activists for LGBT rights are hopeful about the prospects of passing some important bills in the near future. And why shouldn’t they be?
President Barack Obama has openly stated his support of many of the issues we seek to correct, including repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” enacting the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and amending hate crimes legislation to include protection of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. The momentum is moving for grassroots efforts across the United States, and will culminate with the Oct. 11 National Equality March in Washington, D.C. Lastly, Congress is back in session this month and stands poised to pass several of the bills we care about.
So we should just sit back and let the equality roll in, right?
Not quite. In fact, not even close.
In this week’s issue of Between The Lines, you’ll find a rundown on national LGBT rights legislation:
Where do our bills sit? What are their chances of passing and when? What are the obstacles we face for each?
The answers are varied and complicated.
A supportive (at least vocally so) president cannot sprinkle magical fairy dust onto our bills and make them law. Nor should he have the power to.
Obama’s promise to sign LGBT rights bills into law is only one step in the lengthy process.
Our biggest hurdle, of course, is Congress.
Clinton White House staffer Richard Socarides said that he thinks the hate crimes changes will become reality in 2009. He also has high hopes for several other bills – but not without some work first. “We can get hate crimes, an inclusive ENDA, and end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before mid-term elections (in November 2010), but not without an aggressive push by the administration,” Socarides said. “And so far I don’t see it.”
An aggressive push from legislators means we need an even more aggressive push from constituents. Sorry to those who kicked their feet up and sat back to relax, but summer is over and our time is up on waiting to make our equal rights dreams come true.
This is an exciting time for all of us. After eight horrible years, we are well into our (albeit somewhat tumultuous) first year with a president who supports the LGBT community. Real opportunities for national changes that can mean the end to workplace and housing discrimination, the end to silencing ourselves in the military or else facing expulsion and more are within our reach. It will even eventually mean the passage of lesser-known but equally important bills such as the Uniting American Families Act, which helps keep bi-national same-sex couples together, or the Family Leave Inclusion legislation, which would help to include LGBT families in family leave protections.
So let’s not sit around and hope that our supporters in legislature will do all of the work for us. Let’s call our not-so-supportive representatives and senators. Let’s march on Washington, D.C. (for those who can make it) and make our voices heard. Let’s make this happen, not wait for it to happen.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.