The Homosexual Agenda: What’s Next?
This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin
November 6th, 2008
So we have a new Congress and a new President, with both branches of government held by Democrats. For some of us, this is a dream come true. After eight years of a hostile administration and more than a decade of a hostile Congress, it would appear that this is our best chance to advance several issues which are important to the LGBT community.
Of course, this setup has disappointed us before. A similar arrangement in 1993 brought us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
But things just might be different this time. During this presidential campaign, President-elect Barack Obama included four specific LGBT issues among his campaign promises:
- Full repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
- Passage of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act
- Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
- Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), the ban on gays serving in the military.
So, what’s really on tap for 2009?
We’ve been focused so much on marriage amendments the past several months that the DOMA is probably topmost in our minds right now. Timothy offered some possibilities and alternatives for repealing all or parts of the DOMA. As he pointed out, all of those options are problematic.
I personally don’t see DOMA going away anytime soon. Just because it’s foremost in our thoughts right at the moment doesn’t mean it will necessarily be the top of the “agenda” in January.
But we have seen considerable momentum building on the other issues. In the past two years, we saw movement on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the ENDA. Unfortunately, that ENDA was the non-inclusive variety, and the resulting dissention among LGBT advocates ultimately doomed ENDA’s passage.
We also saw Congressional hearings on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, although that hasn’t translated yet into legislative action. Nevertheless, the groundwork has been laid for DADT going the way of the dodo bird and polar icecaps.
The top LGBT priorities for 2009 will be driven by what is politically possible. In the current climate, I think Hate Crimes and repealing DADT are doable. ENDA is achievable as well, but only if we get our own act together and get behind a fully inclusive one. Otherwise, we’ll suffer the same division and acrimony as we did the last go-round, with the same result.
Besides those three items, there are some other opportunities as well. The new administration will almost certainly lift the HIV traveler’s ban after Congress repealed the 1993 law which mandated it. That law was one of Sen. Jesse Helms’s great legacies. The Bush administration signed the repeal, but it has so far failed to follow up by actually rescinding the ban. That unfinished business will be left for the next administration
We might also realize other important gains as well, like support for honest reality-based HIV prevention programs that rely on something more realistic than abstinence until marriage — especially when marriage continues to be pushed out of reach for so many gays and lesbians.
And that brings us back to DOMA. And unfortunately, DOMA is probably off the table. With the passage of three new marriage amendments in Florida, Arizona and California, there will be few legislators on Capital Hill willing to put much effort into something their own constituents voted against back home. In a stretch, we might be able to add some domestic partnership benefits for federal employees, but I’m afraid DOMA itself will probably be around for quite some time to come.