Home > DADT, Gay culture, health care, human rights, Politics > Happy Emancipation Day! Happy Visitation Rights Day!

Happy Emancipation Day! Happy Visitation Rights Day!

It’s only a government holiday for the District of Columbia, but it’s a very special one. It’s also extra awesome since Jim gets the day off as a District government employee.

Emancipation Day in a nutshell:

On April 16, 1862, more than eight months before the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln signed the act that freed the slaves in the District, and we mark the day to celebrate freedom and reflect on the unfinished work in the pursuit of equal rights.

It’s an important day for the District especially considering the advancements DC voting rights activists have made in the last few years. The holiday is also especially prescient given the news earlier this week that the DC Voting Rights Act is going to receive a floor vote in the House probably late next week….oh and it will be debated with that wretched gun amendment attached to it, too.

[Del. Eleanor Holmes] Norton said that the bill, which would grant the residents of Washington a voting member of Congress, would include a provision enhancing gun owners’ rights in the District, a measure Norton had resisted including.

I’ve got to hand it to Norton on this one. She has proven to be a highly effective voice for the District on this issue and she has been especially strategic about leveraging the political capital her party in the House gained after the 2006 elections and especially after the 2008 elections.

Together with DC Vote, Norton has put together the first bill in a long time that has any hope of passing. Surely the gun amendment has been a tough pill to swallow and it has definitely split District residents. Personally, I don’t think we should kill this bill because of the amendment. We’ve come too far in this fight and the rest of America lives with the Second Amendment just fine.

As Michael O’Brien of  The Hill writes:

Norton said that the strength of pro-gun rights forces in Congress had only grown over the past year, and with the specter of reduced Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate looming after this fall’s elections, she planned to proceed with her bill anyway.

‘I have given this fight all that I had. There is nothing left to do but make the hard decision,” she said. “I believe residents would not want us to pass up this once-in-a-life-time opportunity for the vote they have sought for more than two centuries.’

I”ll take the vote and once we have it we can lobby our representative to introduce legislation to change this law.

Other happy news today?

Obama has made more inroads with the gay community with his announcement today that any hospital that accepts Medicare and Medicaid funds must not discriminate in its visitation rights policies. It does not only apply to LGBT Americans, but to all Americans.

From the President’s memo to the Department of Health and Human Services:

Often, a widow or widower with no children is denied the support and comfort of a good friend. Members of religious orders are sometimes unable to choose someone other than an immediate family member to visit them and make medical decisions on their behalf. Also uniquely affected are gay and lesbian Americans who are often barred from the bedsides of the partners with whom they may have spent decades of their lives — unable to be there for the person they love, and unable to act as a legal surrogate if their partner is incapacitated.

The president and his staff worked behind the scenes on this one and it’s an awesome move on the Administration’s part.

Is today’s news foreshadowing of more favorable legislation to come i.e. ENDA, DADT….DOMA?

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