What’s the LGBT status in Congress?

There are 27 LGBT-specific bills in Congress right now, but only a handful stand even a small chance of passage. How much do you know about what’s on the table?

Lisa Keen | Keen News Service lisakeen@mac.com



President Obama

FIRST VICTORY | President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Act into law last October.



It’s LGBT Pride Month and time to check your LGBT-IQ.

Only one question this year: Besides the measures on the House and Senate Defense authorization bills to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” name the other 25 LGBT-specific bills pending in Congress right now.

ENDA? Yes — the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That’s two: a bill in the House and one in the Senate. Both have had hearings but neither has had a committee vote.

Hate crimes? No — that passed last fall, attached to the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2010. The president signed it into law on Oct. 28.

Repeal DOMA? Yes — that’s one bill, in the House, though it isn’t sponsored by the most veteran of Congress’ three openly gay members and has gone exactly nowhere since it was introduced last September. Not even a hearing. Not likely to go anywhere either, though it has 111 co-sponsors.

Ryan White? No — that’s not really an LGBT bill. It’s an HIV medical treatment funding bill. But it is of interest to the community and it, too, was signed into law last fall.

Twenty-three more to go… .

Give up? Don’t feel bad. Most people can’t name them. And most of these bills are going nowhere this year anyway.

But for those hoping to refine their LGBT-IQ during the month of June, here’s a quick primer, categorized by their proximity to passage:


Poised for passage

• “Don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal: Two individual stand-alone bills (one in the Senate, one in the House) to repeal the military’s policy excluding gays were introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Penn.

The full House, in considering a defense authorization bill, approved adding an amendment that put the repeal measure into the annual funding bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee put a similar amendment into its defense funding bill and then sent it to the full Senate.

Now, all eyes are on the full Senate, where Republicans are expected to try and sabotage the repeal measure or filibuster the entire funding bill. Then, the funding bill will go to a House-Senate conference committee where members must decide on one final version.

DADT repeal could be won or lost anywhere along the line, and most likely before August. But the way the measure is now written — requiring Pentagon certification before it can be implemented — it could be a failed effort even if it does pass Congress.


On the verge of a vote

• Employment Non-Discrimination (ENDA): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promises the House bill, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, will get a vote this year. But she won’t move the bill until DADT (see above) passes, and she can’t promise ENDA will pass.

Rumblings of conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans in the press suggest some level of uneasiness around the inclusion of gender identity.

Republicans are expected to try and kill the bill, sponsored by gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., with scare tactics — like saying it will lead to cross-dressing teachers for kindergartners and men with beards wearing dresses to gain access to women’s restrooms.

Meanwhile, there are no promises in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not even mention the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., at the top of this month when outlining the work ahead.

• Domestic Partner Benefits/Obligations (aka DPBO): Both the Senate bill, sponsored by Lieberman, and the House bill, sponsored by lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., have passed committee and both have gotten two public nods from President Obama.

The House bill has 140 co-sponsors; the Senate one has 31. But they’re gathering dust waiting for their moments on the floor for two reasons: 1. The health care reform bill overshadowed everything until March of this year, and 2. There are unresolved issues about how to pay for the bills.

Until that happens — and it might — they’ll continue waiting in the wings while time runs out on this Congressional session.


Going nowhere this session


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

NO PROMISES | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not even mention ENDA earlier this month when outlining priorities for the Senate.



• Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries: This bill, introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wisc., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, has the same “pay for” issues as the Domestic Partner bill. But it has only 44 co-sponsors in the House and 17 in the Senate, and neither has passed committee.

• Respect for Marriage: Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., is the only legislator in Congress to introduce a bill this session to seek repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The bill has a respectable 111 co-sponsors but is not as high a priority as DADT and ENDA or even DPBO among LGBT activists in Washington.

Plus, politically, it’s a tougher sell in a mid-term election year at a time when the latest poll (Gallup, in May) showed only 44 percent of the American public thinks gays should be able to marry.

There is no Senate counterpart and the bill has seen no action since being introduced last September.

• Every Child Deserves a Family: This bill, from Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., seeks to end discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the adoption of a child.

It has 26 co-sponsors, no Senate counterpart, and has seen no action since being introduced last October.

• Family Leave Insurance: This bill, also introduced by Rep. Stark, would expand the existing federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in a number of ways and, of particular interest to the LGBT community, enable employees to take leave in order to care for a domestic partner or child of a domestic partner.

The bill has only 35 co-sponsors, has no counterpart in the Senate, and has seen no action since being introduced in March of last year.

• Family and Medical Leave Inclusion: This bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., along with the three openly gay representatives in Congress, would also amend the FMLA but only for the purpose of enabling gay employees to take leave to care for “a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling or grandparent who has a serious health condition.”

The bill has 29 co-sponsors, no counterpart in the Senate, and has seen no action seen being introduced in April of last year.

• Uniting American Families: With immigration being such a hot issue these days, one would expect this legislation — introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Nadler — to have seen some action, but it hasn’t.

The House bill has 124 co-sponsors; the Senate bill 23.

Leahy, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a hearing last June, and there was talk of including the measure as part of an overall immigration reform bill. But so far, nothing else has happened.

• Equal Rights for Health Care: This bill, introduced by Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics in the delivery of health care services or federally funded health research.

It has only 13 co-sponsors, no Senate counterpart, and has gone nowhere since being introduced in June 2009.


Gay Congressman Jared Polis

FIGHTING FOR THE STUDENTS | Gay Congressman Jared Polis has introduced a bill to protect LGBT students from discrimination. But prospects for its passage don’t look good.



• Freedom from Discrimination in Credit: Rep. Frank chairs the powerful House Financial Services Committee where this bill has sat quietly since being introduced by Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., with Frank and 75 co-sponsors.

It would amend the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in credit services.

There is no Senate counterpart and no movement in sight.

• Student Non-Discrimination: Rookie Congressman Jared Polis, D-Colo., who is both openly gay and a staunch advocate for education, introduced this bill in January 2010, seeking to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.

It has the support of 111 co-sponsors, including Reps. Frank and Baldwin. Its counterpart in the Senate was introduced by rookie Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and has 23 co-sponsors.

But neither bill is expected to see action this year.

• Safe Schools Improvement: Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., introduced this bill in the House to amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to collect data on and move to prevent bullying. It specifically identifies one form of bullying as targeting students based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. And it has 113 co-sponsors.

There was a push to include this as part of the Obama administration’s proposed reform of No Child Left Behind, but the proposal submitted by the president did not include it.

Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., introduced a similar bill in April, but it has only five co-sponsors.

There is no Senate counterpart and no action likely.

• Health Equity and Accountability: This bill, introduced by Rep. Donna Christiansen, D-Virgin Islands, seeks to have the Department of Health and Human Services collect data on health matters related to sexual orientation and a number of other characteristics, but it calls on HHS to develop a plan to eliminate disparities in health care on the basis of race, ethnicity, and primary language only.

It has 58 co-sponsors (including Rep. Baldwin), no Senate counterpart, and has seen no action since its introduction in June 2009.


Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin

PROTECTIONS FOR COUPLES | Lesbian Rep. Tammy Baldwin sponsored the Domestic Partners Benefits/Obligations Act in the House.



• Equal Access to COBRA: COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986, is a federal law that enables employees to keep their existing job-related health insurance coverage for themselves and their families for 18 months after they’ve lost their jobs.

This bill, from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would enable gay employees to continue their coverage for their domestic partners.
The bill, introduced in March 2010, has no co-sponsors, no counterpart in the House, and no prospects for this session of Congress.

Housing (three identical bills): In March, three legislators introduced three identical bills to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in real estate transactions and brokerage services.

The Fair and Inclusive Housing Rights from Rep. Nadler has two co-sponsors; the Housing Nondiscrimination Act from Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., has none, and the Housing Non-Discrimination Act from Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Penn., also has no co-sponsors.

Keep in mind: This primer expires when the 111th Congressional session adjourns at the end of this year. All bills left pending must be reintroduced and start down the political passage tracks all over again, from the top.

© 2010 Keen News Service

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 18, 2010.

—  Dallasvoice

Southern Baptists: Proposal to repeal DADT based on 'indulging strong sexual desires'

Richard Land
Richard Land

Not surprisingly, the Southern Baptist Convention has approved a resolution opposing the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.”

Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, told those attending the denomination’s annual meeting in Florida this week that repealing DADT would “destroy” the military, according to the Associated Press.

“I’m told that there will be massive resignations … if we try to impose this social experiment on our military forces when we’re in the middle of two wars.” Land says in a video from the meeting posted on the SBC website. “We will end up with a military that will have a higher than national percentage homosexual population rather than a lower than national percentage homosexual population, and it will lead to discord and disharmony in the ranks, and it will destroy the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

The Baptist Press notes that Land also talked about the church’s efforts to defend Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban.

The SBC resolution opposing DADT states that,”No government should implement standards or policies regulating the lives of military personnel based on nothing other than indulging sexual desires, however strong …”

—  John Wright

22 countries ban gays in the military

Map of countries that ban gays in the military
Map of countries that ban gays in the military. (From Esquire.com)

This is the list of countries that have a ban on gays (and lesbians, where women may serve) in the military. We’re in great company:

Cuba, China, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United States, Venezuela and Yemen.

—  David Taffet

UPDATED: HRC apologizes for saying Eddie Bernice Johnson voted against DADT repeal

I’m assuming I was not alone in receiving the below e-mail this morning from Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese saying that Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, voted against repealing “Don’t ask don’t tell” last month on the House floor. I’m guessing that the message went out to everyone on HRC’s e-mail list who lives in Johnson’s district. But HRC’s e-mail is wrong! Johnson didn’t vote against DADT repeal; she voted for it. You can see records of her vote by going here or here. Johnson is a longtime, staunch LGBT ally who scores a 100 on HRC’s Congressional Scorecard for her support of LGBT equality. In short, there’s no way she would vote against DADT repeal. So why would HRC send out this message? I’m still trying to find out, but right now I’m guessing that it’s a computer error. There are four members of Congress with the surname Johnson, two of whom voted against DADT repeal, including Republican Sam Johnson of Texas. I’ve left messages with HRC spokesman Michael Cole, but I haven’t heard back. I’ve also called Eddie Bernice Johnson’s communications director, but was told to call back a little later as everyone was in a staff meeting. I’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: I just received a message from HRC spokesman Fred Sainz apologizing for the error. Here’s what he said:

“Representative Johnson did in fact vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. The email that was sent out this morning incorrectly stated her vote and was a technological glitch for which we have apologized. Our president, Joe Solmonese, has placed a call to the Congresswoman to apologize and we have been in touch with both her congressional and district office staffs to let them know that a corrected email will be going out shortly.

“Representative Johnson has consistently scored 100% on the HRC Congressional Scorecard. She has been a consistent supporter of issues important to the LGBT community and we applaud her for her vote to allow gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly and honorably in the United States military.”

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—  John Wright

Sen. John Cornyn's office confirms what we already knew: He won't vote for DADT repeal

In response to the inquiry I mentioned earlier, we just received a statement from Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s office. Here’s what Cornyn spokesman Kevin McLaughlin said:

“Sen. Cornyn believes that readiness must remain the highest priority of our military. Right now, the Pentagon is studying how repealing DADT would affect military readiness, and this careful review is expected to be completed by the end of the year. Sen. Cornyn believes Congress should not to act on a possible repeal until that review has been completed.”

We still haven’t received a response from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s office.

—  John Wright

Local gay veteran says Sen. Hutchison 'just might do the right thing' on DADT repeal

Yesterday I posted an item about an Action Alert that was issued by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, asking people to call their senators and urge them to support an amendment that would begin the process of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell.” In my post, I suggested that neither of Texas’ two senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, is at all likely to support the amendment. But Dave Gainer, a board member for SLDN who lives in Tarrant County, says I shouldn’t be so pessimistic — at least not when it comes to Hutchison. In fact, Gainer says there’s hope that if she hears from enough people, Hutchison “just might do the right thing.” Here’s his message:

First, thanks for making people aware of the call to action! Many have worked hard over 17 years to make repeal happen. The next obstacle is the Senate floor vote. There are battles that will follow IF AND ONLY IF the repeal language makes it out of the Senate. While I have not met directly with our senators, I have met with their staff.  I think there is hope that Senator Hutchison just might do the right thing! After all, she represents 20 million people of which about 70 percent support repeal according to last month’s Gallup Poll http://www.gallup.com/poll/127904/Broad-Steady-Support-Openly-Gay-Service-Members.aspx#2

That’s a huge number of people! And a heck of a lot of votes. I think she needs to hear directly from her constituents should she doubt the polling numbers. I wouldn’t give up on her just yet — give her a chance to hear from all of us first! I encourage everyone to reach out to her, express their individual support and remind her that this Bill places IMPLEMENTATION of repeal back into the lap of the DOD and the White House. Congress tied their hands in 1993 and, as the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs have said – repeal is the right thing to do.

If no one calls from the pre-repeal side, she has no choice but listen to those who do call from the other side. Let’s give her a chance to vote from a position of knowledge. Then, if she fails, we can give up.

Dave

As I said yesterday, I’ve left messages for the press folks in both Cornyn’s and Hutchison’s offices inquiring about their positions on DADT repeal, but thus far I have received no response. The number for Cornyn’s Washington office is 202-224-2934, and the number for Hutchison’s is 202-224-5922.

—  John Wright

Call your senators about DADT repeal, even if there isn't a chance in hell they'll support it

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has issued an Action Alert calling for people to contact their senators and urge them to support the amendment that would begin the process of repealing “don’t ask don’t tell.”

The 2011 defense spending bill that includes the amendment is expected to come to the floor of the Senate this summer, possibly as early as the next few weeks. Republicans are reportedly scouring for the 41 votes needed for a filibuster. There are 41 Republicans in the Senate, but two moderates are expected to support the DADT repeal plan. Which has left opponents trying to recruit a few Democrats to support a filibuster. They may also try to craft an amendment to the amendment that would significantly weaken the DADT repeal compromise.

Anyhow, for those of us in Texas, the SLDN Action Alert may seem like nothing but a call to conduct an exercise in futility. That’s because it’s highly, highly unlikely that either of our two senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, would support anything approaching a DADT repeal — or even choose not to join a filibuster of the amendment.

I’ve left messages for the press secretaries of both Cornyn and Hutchison, inquiring about the senators’ official positions on a DADT repeal, which has never before been voted on by the Senate. I’ll post their responses if and when they provide them.

In the meantime, if you really believe that it can’t hurt to try, the number for Cornyn’s Washington office is 202-224-2934, and the number for Hutchison’s 202-224-5922.

—  John Wright

Dan Choi ends DADT hunger strike

Lt. Dan Choi and Capt. Jim Pietrangelo have reportedly ended the hunger strike they began last Thursday over “don’t ask don’t tell.” Here’s the statement posted Wednesday night on Choi’s website:

“Friends,

“The fast of the past seven days has been a success because people have been educated to the use of fasting as a tool to bring attention to a set of clear political and social demands.

“Tonight, we will end the fast knowing that the inadequacies of the ‘compromise’ to end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ are well known. Our quest to end the discharges, stop the insulting study, and institute a non-discrimination policy is not over. In the coming weeks, we will prepare to resume our fast and will provide many ways for those who believe in uncompromising justice to join us.

“On a personal note, we have learned a great deal about the proper planning involved in fasting. We appreciate the concerns that many have expressed. When this fast is resumed, we will be using the proper safeguards to ensure our health is properly attended to. Everyone that considers fasting for an extended period of time must also take proper precautions.”

—  John Wright

Cammermeyer appointed to DOD committee

Col. Margarethe 'Grethe' Cammermeyer, left, with then-Texas State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt during Cammermeyer's visit to Dallas in 1998
Col. Margarethe ‘Grethe’ Cammermeyer, left, with then-Texas State Rep. Harryette Ehrhardt during Cammermeyer’s visit to Dallas in 1998.

Back in 1989, the U.S. Army Reserves threw Col. Margarethe “Grethe” Cammermeyer out of the military when she told the truth during a security clearance interview and acknowledged that she was a lesbian.

Today, 21 years later, the Department of Defense announced that Cammermeyer has been appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.

In announcing Cammermeyer’s appointment — and the appointment of a new committee chair and eight other committee members — Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley said the committee’s work is “vital to the development of informed department policy.”

—  admin

What you should know about the long road ahead before 'don't ask don't tell' is repealed

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network sent out a very helpful guide today detailing the path that lies ahead for the repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” I’ve posted the guide in its entirety after the jump.

—  John Wright