Speaking to an international conference of gay politicians in San Francisco, U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., and Jared Polis, D-Colo., said they expect a domestic partner benefits bill to come up for a vote by the end of the year and the employment bill to reach the floor early in 2010.
The lawmakers said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic.
“I’m hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close,” said Baldwin, who is sponsoring the federal worker domestic partner bill.
Oh, and The White House is chiming in agreement...
Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration’s highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.
Including transgender workers as part of the legislation to ban job discrimination and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gay service members may especially meet opposition in Congress, Berry said. But he said that with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities controlling the House and the Senate, victories were “within our grasp.”
“The tide of public opinion is in our favor. The forces of intolerance are on the run. We have a president who has been clear in his support for our community and in his commitment to our equality,” Berry said. “This is the best opportunity we will ever have as a community, and shame on us if we don’t succeed.”
And I guess they have no reason to lie. It's just that we've often heard this before. Just how many times so far this year have we heard these promises?
And what do we have to look at now? A hate crimes bill that's been 10 years overdue?
Now don't get me wrong, action on hate crimes is better than absolutely nothing. It's just that I was really hoping President Obama would do more to prove he was actually "a fierce advocate of equality". Same goes for Democratic leaders in Congress.
OK, OK, so they have their hands full right now. I get that health care is sucking the energy out of everything else right now (even for a bill that always seems on the edge of losing its entire relevance?) and everyone wants to focus on the economy once health care gets passed (even for another pointless TARP bailout?). But hey, what about all the LGBTQ families that are also struggling in this economy?
If anything, our community needs progress on our civil rights now more than ever before. We can't afford the economic inequality of being fired from our jobs, denied health care benefits, and denied all the economic benefits of civil marriage. I know Harry Reid has his hands full in the Senate right now, but I certainly hope he'll remember to take some time to help LGBTQ families in Nevada in our time of need. Same goes for Nancy Pelosi on the House side. If they want our full support in 2010 (and I'm certainly ready to bust my @ss for Reid next year!), they need to show us some real results ASAP.