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Posts Tagged ‘ENDA’

Happy Emancipation Day! Happy Visitation Rights Day!

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

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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Change is Afoot

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What a difference a week makes.

Just a week after GetEqual’s first direct action, the Pentagon announced today that Sec. Robert Gates is taking “unilateral action” ahead of congressional action in order to relax the enforcement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

From the Washington Independent:

Gates told senators that he would put together a study group, led by Army Lt. Gen. Carter Ham and Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, to study the least-disruptive ways to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

That study hasn’t concluded. Nor has the Senate taken up Joe Lieberman’s (I-Conn.) bill to repeal the ban. But Gates has some unilateral tools at his disposal, and this week he intends to use them.

“He will announce changes to the way the current law is being enforced that make it more difficult to begin investigations and kick people out,” said a defense source who would not speak for the record ahead of Gates’s announcement. Spokesman Geoff Morrell hinted in his briefing yesterday that Gates would make some changes, but did not specify any.

The announcement comes the same day that long-time gay rights activist Cleve Jones, who was instrumental in organizing last October’s National Equality March, published a conciliatory open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the letter, Jones Jones makes an appeal for Speaker Pelosi’s skills as an artful and persuasive politician and leader.

We’ve seen the passion you’ve brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community — especially young people — are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

It is clear that the gay rights movement has no plans to ease up on its pressure to act on ENDA and DADT this year. I’m not so sure that’s going to happen. House Dems may have been chanting “Fired Up! Ready to Go!” at the health care reform bill signing ceremony, but I’m just not that confident they have it in them to work on immigration and climate change much less ENDA and DADT. I just don’t have that much faith in them, I guess.

Despite that, I still plan to do my part to keep up the pressure. If there’s anything the health care debate has taught us is that for change to happen with this administration and this congress it’s going to take everything your side has for anyone to react.

Choi’s actions were criticized last week by some because of his apparent ignorance to the debate du jour, health care. I think it was smart, though. After all, the Pentagon has not ceased operations because of that debate. In the midst of all the health care craziness were hearings and testimony from military brass before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Each who for the most part were in solidarity on the need to put an end to the inane DADT policy.

Surely Choi’s behavior caught the notice of his superiors who were no doubt put in an ackward situation because of him. Better to just urge Sec. Gates to do something now in order to curb more and more similar actions by other LGBT servicemembers who are certainly growing tired of this policy, too.

I know Congress would like to coast from here on out until November, but the reality is there is still so much more to get done and the community simply must keep vigorously applying the pressure. I am admittedly skeptical to whether Congress will do anything for the rest of the year, but I’ve never wanted to be proven so wrong before.