Texas senators go quiet on DADT repeal

Dallas Log Cabin Republicans President Rob Schlein, left, and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Dave Guy-Gainer, a local board member for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, reported Monday night:

“Well I tried again to meet with Senator Hutchison or her staff. The Dallas number rang busy all day Friday. So, I tried their fax and it went thru. I proposed an establish communications’ meeting with myself and four other, major Dallas leaders. It’s Monday nite and I didn’t hear squat back. Guess she isn’t interested in representing us at all.”

Dallas Voice also contacted the offices of both Hutchison and Sen. John Cornyn on Monday to find out where they stand on the standalone measure to repeal DADT. But as of this morning, we had received no response — not even from Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin, who normally at least acknowledges our existence. After all, dealing with the media is part of McLaughlin’s taxpayer-funded job.

We also never heard back from McLaughlin about why Cornyn missed last week’s failed cloture vote on the Defense Authorization Act, to which DADT repeal was attached. (Hutchison voted against closure, joining the Republican filibuster that blocked the bill.)

This morning we contacted Rob Schlein, president of the Dallas chapter of Log Cabin Republicans, to find out whether he’d had any contact with the two senators’ offices about DADT repeal.

Schlein said he has not but is pretty sure they will vote against it.

“I am going to say that I wouldn’t suspect that they would support it, just because that’s been their history,” Schlein said. “I really don’t know, but it won’t surprise me if they both vote against it. You’ve got to remember that part of the senators’ job is to vote their constituency. I know the polls show the majority of the nation supports repeal, but I’m sure that in Texas, the numbers are a little bit different.”

Schlein added that their votes aren’t really that important, because there’s enough Republican support to pass DADT repeal in the Senate. He again blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, for failing to pass DADT repeal sooner.

“The more interesting question is, will Reid put the bill on the floor without sabotaging it?” Schlein said. “If the process is right, if Reid doesn’t play any more games and he doesn’t attach any unrelated amendments like the DREAM Act, I think it will pass.”

If you’d like to try to contact the senators yourself, Hutchison is at 202-224-5922 and Cornyn is at 202-224-2934.

—  John Wright

Forget about ENDA and DOMA for 2 years

The Advocate has an early piece up about what life will be like on the federal front with a Republican majority in the House and possibly even the Senate. Basically, passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act are off the table in the 112th Congress. The repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell,” meanwhile, is pretty iffy. But hey, who knows, we might get some changes to Social Security!!! Here’s an excerpt:

“This is going to be a real test of the leadership of the gay community,” said Christopher Barron, chairman of the Board of GOProud, a conservative gay group. “This will be a test of whether partisanship will come first or if there will be a recognition that the leadership is actually interested in delivering for their constituency.”

Barron said new opportunities to work with the Republican majority in the House would not be “sexy” but might be fecund, nonetheless, as he ticked through a list that included reworking social security, encouraging health insurance competition, and altering the tax code.

As Republicans revisit taxes and the federal deficit, Barron saw an opportunity for LGBT activists to push for optional personal savings accounts that move toward privatizing social security. From his perspective, this would help level the playing field for LGBT Americans who are currently locked into a social security system that does not allow them to pass their survivor benefits along to their partners.

“You’d be able to take a portion of your social security tax dollars and put it into a personal savings account that you could leave to your partner or really anyone that you wanted to — something you’re barred from doing today,” Barron said.

—  John Wright

Not a Sen.: Gillibrand’s marriage support predates statewide constituency

People are always saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s support for marriage equality was a convenient turnaround done after she was appointed to Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in January of ’09. This site even felt that way in the beginning, since civil unions were the stated goal in Gillibrand’s 2006 congressional campaign. Frankly, after years of Clinton failing to come around to full marriage championing, we gay New Yorkers were just glad to finally have a U.S. Sen. on record for unqualified nuptial equality (Sen. Schumer would follow suit two months after Gillibrand’s appointment), so we just kind of went with the public evolution, whenever it might have started.

Gillibrand-LGBTBut today, New York’s Gay City News reminds us that the senator actually went on record a couple of months prior to the coveted appointment to fill Secretary Clinton’s pantsuits, coming out for personal marriage support on a conservative-leaning radio show, while running in a conservative district, at a time when it truly could’ve cost the then-congressperson in the polls:

Gillibrand’s Republican opponent has time and again made the charge that she flip-flopped politically on a number of key issues when she stepped into statewide office from a more conservative upstate congressional district. Surely, Gillibrand’s views on gun control, for example, have become more progressive, but the oft-repeated assertion that her support for marriage equality was a Senate-appointment conversion aimed at complying with a requirement from Governor David Paterson is simply not true.

Days before her first reelection contest in November 2008, Gillibrand announced her support for the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry on a radio program hosted by New York Post Albany bureau chief Fred Dicker. Shifting from a pro-civil union posture to endorsement of gay marriage three months earlier than supposed may not seem like a big deal, but it is a crucial distinction.

Gillibrand, who won in an upset in 2006 in a traditionally Republican district, was no sure bet for reelection –– and she had no reason to anticipate that November that a Senate vacancy was about to open up.

And Dicker’s radio show was certainly no friendly venue to announce embrace of full equality.

Our Picks for the US Senate and House [GCN]

GCN is right: This is a distinction worth noting. People across the nation think of New York as being this liberal enclave where pride flags fall from the sky and everyone’s doing shots with Andy Cohen and Bethenny Frankel at Nate Berkus’ fabulous gay engagement party. But in reality, New York’s peppered with some deep red. Then-Rep. Gillibrand was running in a very red district. And even though it was only two years ago, 11/08 was a very different marriage picture where far fewer Democrats had taken that next step in joining Feingold, Kennedy, and the handful of other prominent (D) “I dos.” So yeah: This is worth consideration.

Okay, so now enough with the past. Tuesday, let’s look toward the future.


*Update: The 10/23/08 Dicker Show transcript, via NYDN. It started at a more tentative place, but the personal heart eventually came out:

*Dicker:* On gay marriage, do you have a position on that?

*Gillibrand*: I think we should have a federal protection for civil

unions so that everyone can have the benefit of a private contract to

allow someone to go to the emergency room, to the hospital …..

*Dicker:* … I Understand that but …

*Gillibrand:* But I think the state should decide what to call it. If

the state wants to call it “marriage,” (then) the state can decide.

*Dicker:* As a voter in New York State, do you think the state should

legalize, as the governor would like and as Speaker Silver would like,

same sex marriage?

*Gillibrand:* Yeah, as a New Yorker, I would support that.

The Dicker Defense [NYDN]

Good As You

—  admin

Dallas congresswoman, staunch LGBT ally says scholarship violations were unintentional

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Dallas Democrat, could face action by the House ethics committee following the revelation that she has, since 2005, awarded more than $25,000 in scholarship funds from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation to her own relatives and the relatives of a staff member.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Johnson has given a total of 23 scholarships to two of her own grandsons, two of her own great-nephews and to the children of Rob Givens, one of her aides. The Morning News said Johnson initially defended her choices in awarding the scholarship funds. But in a statement released by her office on Monday, Aug. 30, Johnson apologized for what she said was an inadvertent violation of the rules and pledged to reimburse the funds immediately.

Her statement said:

“I am proud of the work that I have done for the 30th District of Texas. As a public servant, I have vowed to represent my constituents to the best of my ability.

“I have never and never planned to restrict my help to only Texans who reside in my district. My district lines have constantly changed and since I am the only Democrat in the entire North Texas Region, surrounded by Republicans, I have made myself accessible for nearly two decades. Much of my district office casework benefits people outside my constituency. While I am not ashamed of helping, I did not intentionally mean to violate any rules in the process — CBCF Scholarship Rules in particular.

“As previously stated, I was unaware of being in any type of violation and never intentionally violated the CBCF’s rules. Further, to rectify this matter immediately, I will reimburse the funds by the end of this week. Additionally, I have reinstituted a non-biased third party objective review committee to evaluate applications and put forth recommendations for future CBCF Scholarships. Going forward, this will eliminate conflicts of interest and consistently remain in compliance with CBCF Scholarship Rules.

“At present, I am home convalescing from major surgery. However, I am diligently working to resolve these issues as they are very important to me.”

Johnson has long been known as an ally of the LGBT community and has consistently scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Congressional Scorecard, which rates legislators based on how they vote on LGBT issues. She has voted in favor of banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and including protections for LGBT people in the federal hate crimes law. She has also voted to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

In addition, Johnson co-sponsored several pro-LGBT bills, including one that would equalize tax treatment for employer-provided health coverage for domestic partners and other non-spouse, non-dependent beneficiaries,  and one that would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents the same immigration benefits as legal spouses of U.S. permanent residents

—  admin