Box Turtle Bulletin

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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for November, 2008

Obama’s LGBT Civil Rights Agenda

Jim Burroway

November 18th, 2008

The website for President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team has posted a fairly comprehensive list of policy objectives for the LGBT community, including fully inclusive employment non-discrimination protections, hate crime protections, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” expanded adoption rights and “full civil unions and federal rights for LGBT couples.”

So while I’m happy to see the president-elect sign on to a very comprehensive LGBT civil rights agenda, I would be very surprised to see White House leadership on these issues. I expect that Obama will have his hands full with the economy and pressing issues in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Besides, the ball will always be Congress’s court anyway. After all, that’s where all legislation originates, and it will be up to congressional leaders to draft the legislation and place them on the calendar for a vote.

Nevertheless, it is a great thing to see. And who knew that a gay agenda would come from a straight man?

Click here to read Obama’s civil rights plan for the LGBT community

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

Jim Burroway

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.

Federal Hate Crimes Bill May Be Revived

Jim Burroway

April 23rd, 2008

Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin has indicated that he hopes to attach hate crimes language to the defense bill either during his committee’s closed-door markup or as an amendment offered during floor debate on the bill.

Last year, Senate Democrats narrowly passed an amendment to the Senate’s FY08 authorization bill to extend the definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation. That amendment also would have provided federal assistance to state and local authorities investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. It died during the reconciliation process in the House, where members feared a presidential veto.

Hate Crimes Bill is Officially Dead

Timothy Kincaid

December 6th, 2007

Anti-gay Activists can now rejoice that violent hate crimes against gay persons will continue to be ignored by the federal government.

Bashers, haters, and anti-gay activists can now celebrate together.

Liberal Democrats Vow To Defeat Hate Crimes Bill

Jim Burroway

November 17th, 2007

Well, not really, but what an ironic world we live in.

When the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act was being debated in the House, President Bush promised to veto the legislation. So when the Senate took up the measure, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) attached it to the Defense Authorization Bill in order to try to make it veto-proof. Now that the Defense Authorization Bill has passed both the House and Senate in two different forms, it now goes to a joint Congressional conference committee.

And that is where the trouble started. As many as 180 house conservatives (mostly Republican) who voted against the hate crimes bill threaten to vote against any defense authorization bill that would include the hate crimes provisions. And they will be joined by as many as 20 anti-war Democrats who vow to vote against the defense authorization because it will provide for the continuation of the Iraq war.

Now it looks like further action on the defense authorization bill will be delayed until early December. It’s unclear right now whether the hate crimes provisions will survive.

Hate Crimes Bill Passed by Senate

Timothy Kincaid

September 27th, 2007

Today 50 Democrats, 9 Republicans, and an Independant voted to add the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill to the bill that funds the war in Iraq.

39 Republicans voted against the measure. Technically the vote was for cloture – to end debate. The vote to add hate crimes to the defense bill was passed by voice vote unopposed. This allows Senators to have voted both for and against the bill.

A similar situation happened in 2004 but Republican leadership removed hate crimes in negotiations between the Senate and the House. That is unlikely to happen this time around.

President Bush will be in the uneviable position of either signing the bill and infuriating his social conservative supporters (about the only supporters he has left) or vetoing the bill and trying to explain to America that preventing hate crimes legislation is more important than paying our soldiers overseas.

Upcoming Hate Crimes Vote Thursday

Jim Burroway

September 26th, 2007

Word has it that the Senate is expected to vote on the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. The anti-gay lobby knew this was coming, with it receiving nearly constant mention at the Family Impact Summit. At one point, the Family Research Council stopped selling their $20 DVD devoted to the subject and started handing it out to anyone who would take one. They’ve been pumping out tons of lies about what this legislation would supposedly do.

I encourage you to inform yourself, read the text of the bill (which I’ve posted three times, something hate crime opponents refuse to do), and call your Senator.

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