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.


November 6th, 2008

-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.

All of these are doable as well as lifting the HIV travelers ban. DOMA is too controversial, and I seriously doubt he will tackle that. However, I do believe this is a fight that needs to be taken to the Supreme Court. With the current pending lawsuits in California, there is a good chance that may very well happen. Once the 2 -3 justices retire (as I am told they will do) Obama can get some nominations that could reasonably apply the Constiution (as it should be) based on equality alone.

Lynn David

November 6th, 2008

I’d go with the Shepard Hate Crimes Act and ENDA/GENDA. BUT…. we have had some really bad timing. It would have been great if the California case that opened up marriage wasn’t decided until after this election. Whether DOMA is off the table because of problems for legislators “back home” or for another reason, I don’t care. We shouldn’t be pushing for it now, and not until the lawsuits in California over Prop 8 are decided.

Actually, we shouldn’t be pushing nor expect anything whatsoever from this congress in the first year. Obama will have his hands full with other issues. I think our patience in those matters should be well rewarded. Though there is always the idea that we should grab for what we can because things between the President and Congress might go sour, even if they are of the same party.

Still waiting seems to be more prudent, virtuous, and doesn’t get our “agenda” branded as overly avaricious.


November 6th, 2008

Sure they may have voted against it but democrats now do have a majority in the house and Senate. And as polls go… marriage amendments are largely GoP supported propositions.

Jeff in Surprise, AZ

November 6th, 2008

How can anyone can still believe that the marriage amendments are largely GOP supported when California largely elected (61%) Obama but supported Prop 8 (52%)? Wake up!

With three admendments failing and the right to adopt gone in one state, the Congress will not have to look at any of our issues. We are just dreaming.

We need to loudly start yelling, we need to have another Stonewall.

JJ in Chicago

November 6th, 2008

I’ll agree with passage of ENDA (sexual orientation only, unless we have the votes for trans) and repeal of DADT.

Obama shouldn’t touch DOMA– it’s too soon, given the economic mess. The country is not ready to go there yet. Hint: Remember Clinton in 1994 when he lost both houses of Congress.

We don’t need is to start yelling or have another Stonewall. This is not 1969 anymore and it’s precisely the WRONG thing to do. The left wingers need to be kept in check.

I’m telling you: right wing talk radio and nuts like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will be all over him on January 20 and it will be a relentless, daily assault.

Dim the lights and cue the sinister sounding music: O’Reilly’s already starting the mantra: “We just don’t know enough about how he’ll govern.” (Yes, we do.)

In other words, they’re sowing the seeds of doubt and he’s not even in office yet. Middle America– not the brightest folks– buy into that crap.

And unfortunately, this country is not as liberal as those on the west coast think.

You think they went after Clinton?? Hah! We ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. They are going to try to trip him up at every turn. They’ll fail, but he needs to balance the hot button social issues with building confidence on addressing economic issues first, or we could be hurt in the mid term elections in 2010.

The state senate in New York is now in Democratic control and very likely gay marriage will pass LEGISLATIVELY there, as opposed to a court ruling.

Patience is the key here. Civil rights don’t happen all at once.

Rob Lll

November 6th, 2008

Obama is a cautious, take-it-slow politician with a full plate of enormous challenges. I very much doubt any action will be taken within the first six months of his administration on GLBT issues, except maybe a lifting of the HIV travel ban or re-affirmation of non-discrimination policy in the executive branch.

After that, I would prefer that ENDA be first up to bat. If I’m not mistaken, protection from employment discrimination is our single most popular issue with the general public — every survey I’ve seen in the past 10 years shows overwhelming support from almost all demographics (I’ve even seen some that show majority support from evangelicals!).

We have successfully passed and defended anti-discrimination laws on the state and local level in many places, and I believe ENDA even passed the Senate in the late 90s. Obama has pledged his support, the Democratic Congress would pass it, it would enjoy broad support among the general public (or at least be the least divisive thing we could push), and could make an enormous difference in the lives of literally millions of people.

I live in a big city in California, and always had protection from job discrimination, both under employer policy of the companies and local/state law. Many of our GLBT brethren in other parts of the country are not so lucky. It would be great to do something for the janitor in Alabama or the nurse in Idaho who have had to spend years in the closet for fear of losing their livelihood. Out of basic solidarity, of course, but I also hope to see a blossoming of new activism in all corners of the country once these protections are in place.

We should also be paying close attention to judicial appointments.


November 6th, 2008

This was absolutely outrageous:

“LDS leader calls for healing the gay-marriage rift”

So let me get this straight: L. Whitney Clayton declares that we deserve only second-class citizenship, that our relationships are effectively worthless, mounting a campaign driven solely by bigotry and contempt and bolstered by lies and thuggery — and he has the gall to call for “civility, with respect and with love?”

Do these people have anti-social personality disorder? I’m serious.


November 6th, 2008

I hope that we will see a time when same-sex partners of U.S. citizens can immigrate here. As a U.S. citizen, I had to move to Australia to be with my Aussie partner and son. At least it’s possible there. Ideally, we’d like to live in the U.S., but now that we’re second-class citizens when it comes to marriage and parenting, that’s unlikely even if immigration reform were to see the light of day.


November 6th, 2008


I think you are right about DOMA being around awhile.

But I think you are wrong about hate crimes. Conservatives have serious constitutional concerns about the hate crime concept itself, and will not like such a major expansion of federal authority. Even if Republicans can’t stop such a measure in the House, they can use the filibuster against it in the Senate — and almost certainly will.

On “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” let me say this: If the stupid policy isn’t gone by this time next year, then gays who voted Democratic were used.

Timothy Kincaid

November 6th, 2008

On “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” let me say this: If the stupid policy isn’t gone by this time next year, then gays who voted Democratic were used.

On this we agree. Even the Republican candidates couldn’t muster more than the vaguest and most luke-warm support for this dinosaur.

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