[We] got an email the other day from a well-connected gay friend, and he said he was hearing rumors that the Obama administration, in an effort to woo back the gays, was thinking of possibly announcing the following this month:
1. Something on Hate Crimes.
2. Federal benefits for partners of gay federal employees.
3. A gay ambassador.
Let me explain something. All of that is very sweet and nice. But it's all very 1990s. Bill Clinton and George W Bush both appointed gay ambassadors, so you get no kudos there. Federal benefits for partners of gay federal employees is, again, nice, and will certainly benefit the handful of gays who work in the government. But again, it's very 1990s, in terms of issues on the gay community's radar. And finally, Hate Crimes. Nice bill, important, but totally bottom of the barrel in terms of its importance compared to DOMA, ENDA, and DADT. Not to mention, Hate Crimes already passed the Senate and House in the last Congress - we expect more with a Democratic president who has promised to be our "fierce advocate."
Aravosis notes some potential problems with it as well, because based on the now-notorious DoJ brief supporting DOMA, those gay state employees can't get any benefits if they are married or civil-unioned in their home states. Because Federal Law prohibts any such recognition of their status. Sad irony, don't you think?
Meanwhile, the HRC actually wrote a letter. A good one, that actually challenges the statements in the brief:
The government goes on to say that DOMA reasonably protects other taxpayers from having to subsidize families like ours. ....These arguments completely disregard the fact that LGBT citizens pay taxes ourselves. We contribute into Social Security equally and receive the same statement in the mail every year. But for us, several of the benefits listed in the statement are irrelevant—our spouses and children will never benefit from them. The parent who asserts that her payments into Social Security should ensure her child’s financial future should she die is not seeking a subsidy. The gay White House employee who works as hard as the person in the next office is not seeking a “subsidy” for his partner’s federal health benefits. He is earning the same compensation without receiving it. And the person who cannot even afford to insure her family because the federal government would treat her partner’s benefits as taxable income—she is not seeking a subsidy.
The government again ignores our experiences when it argues that DOMA § 2 does not impair same-sex couples’ right to move freely about our country as other families can....This example shows the fallacy of that argument: a same-sex couple and their child drives cross-country for a vacation. On the way, they are in a terrible car accident. One partner is rushed into the ICU while the other, and their child, begs to be let in to see her, presenting the signed power of attorney that they carry wherever they go. They are told that only “family” may enter, and the woman dies alone while her spouse waits outside. This family was not “welcome.”....
I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones....
As an American, a civil rights advocate, and a human being, I hold this administration to a higher standard than this brief..... this brief should not be good enough for you. The question is, Mr. President—do you believe that it’s good enough for us?
If we are your equals, if you recognize that our families live the same, love the same, and contribute as much as yours, then the answer must be no.
We call on you to put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.
I'm not holding my breath. I suspect Aravosis is right: they will throw us a couple of bones but will not grapple with any serious matters. And we will continue to be told to shut up, that our issues are not important enough, that our lives are not important enough. So terribly inconvenient, we homosexuals.
Cartoon from the Washington Blade