Politically we both are strongly committed Democrats. However, we are not pleased how the party is ignoring, abandoning and delaying acting on LGBT equality issues. Our so-called “fierce advocate” of a president is all talk in front of a gay audience but otherwise shows little leadership and action to the cause. The same goes to our elected officials in Washington. They love the money, votes and volunteers from the gay community but when called to action, they “hem and haw”. They claim the time is not right, there are more important issues, LGBT people need to be patient. In other words, they are afraid to stand up for the rights of their LGBT supporters.
As we approach mid-term primaries and elections, various Democratic Party organizations are calling us to solicit money. I have made it very clear to them that we will no longer give a cent to any Democratic national committees or candidates until “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and DOMA – Defensive of Marriage Act are overturned. And when ENDA – Employment Non-Discrimination Act and UAFA – Uniting American Families Act is passed.
These four issues are critical to all LGBT citizens. I was surprised by the lack of knowledge the people running the phone bank had about these issues. I had to explain acronyms and terminology to them.
A quick recap why these items are crucial.
Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT): Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention. Comparative data from foreign militaries and domestic police and fire departments show that when gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly there is no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness. When openly gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals have been allowed to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces there has been no evidence of disruption or loss of mission effectiveness. The U.S. military is capable of integrating members of groups historically excluded from its ranks, as demonstrated by its success in reducing both racial and gender discrimination.
Repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): This hurtful and discriminatory law explicitly prohibits the Federal Government and all federal agencies from extending any federal marriage-based benefits, privileges and rights to same-sex couples and it authorizes states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. It is denying tens of thousands of legally married lesbian and gay couples across the country more than 1,000 federal protections they deserve. The federal protections of marriage include Social Security survivors' benefits, family and medical leave, equal compensation as federal employees, and immigration rights, among others.
Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA): In 29 states it is still legal to fire someone because his or her boss thinks the employee might be gay. In 38 states it is legal to terminate employment based on a person's gender identity. Current federal employment discrimination protections cover the classifications of race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability. ENDA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to that list. As such, ENDA would prohibit public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using a person's perceived or actual sexuality or gender identity as a reason to fire them or to not promote them, or as the basis of making other employment related decisions.
The bill exempts businesses with fewer than 15 employees, as well as religious institutions. This change will not apply to uniformed officers in the military and it will not be applied retroactively.
Pass the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA): This law would allow LGBT citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their foreign national partners for residency in the United States. Under current law, no such sponsorship is available. An estimated 36,000 face imminent separation or exile because of discriminatory immigration policies.
There are a few accomplishments that should be noted:
- Passed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act.
- Lifted the HIV Entry Ban effective January 2010.
- Extended limited benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.
- Signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability -- the first positive federal LGBT legislation in the nation's history.