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    July 20, 2007

    Something rotten in the Senate

    Posted by: Chris

    Harry_reidThere's disappointing (if not surprising) news on the fate of a gay-inclusive hate crimes bill in the U.S. Senate. According to HRC's Back Story blog, the debate on Iraq has dragged down with it the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention/Local Law Enforcement Act, the bill's official title. The blog quotes an explanation from HRC legislative director Allison Herwitt:

    After a protracted debate about the Iraq war, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid temporarily suspended consideration of the Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill.  Earlier, Senators Kennedy and Smith had filed hate crimes as a potential amendment to the DoD bill.  As a result, consideration of both the bill and hate crimes will be delayed for the moment.  Reid pulled the bill after the Levin-Reed amendment failed to garner the necessary 60 votes -- a procedural hurdle needed to end a filibuster against the amendment. Levin-Reed would have called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring.  This could mean that a vote on hate crimes may not occur before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

    Our congressional allies -- including Senate leadership -- remain committed to getting a vote on hate crimes this year.  Senators Kennedy and Smith continue to look for ways to advance this crucial legislation.

    All this still begs the question of why in the first place HRC and its Democratic allies in the Senate chose to burden the hate crimes bill by linking it to easily the most controversial piece of legislation in Congress. The hate crimes measure has bipartisan majority support in the Senate and so would pass if voted on as a free-standing measure (or attached to something germane and not so controversial).

    There is the potential for filibuster, of course, which would raise the bar to 60 votes for Senate passage, but there's no guarantee (or even a specific threat) that the Republicans would target such a popular measure or that there'd be too few votes to overcome a filibuster if attempted. In fact, the last time the gay-inclusive hate crimes bill passed the Senate, in June 2004, the vote was 65 to 33, with 18 Republicans voting in favor. That's not only enough to overcome a filibuster, it's just shy of enough to override a veto.

    And yet once again, like so many times before, through years when Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress and even the White House, gay rights bills wallow as low priority items. There's no talk of votes in the House and Senate for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act either, even though it has majority support in both chambers. We shouldn't be surprised. Democrats and their lackies at HRC have been hinting privately since January that "the deal" with the party's leadership is that only hate crimes would get a vote this year, so this "frustrating delay" fits the pattern.

    What further evidence do we need that gay rights are little more than a political football to Howard Dean, Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders? They called for votes on gay rights measures when the GOP controlled Congress and they knew Republicans would kill them, but they sit on their hands when they're in control.

    They sit on their hands not because they oppose our civil rights. Their support is real, if mostly rhetorical. But they know that if a hate crimes bill passes, or even if it's vetoed, the gays will start clamoring for a vote on ENDA. If ENDA passes or is vetoed, then "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is next on the list. And as we travel down that list, the political risk to Democrats grows. Or worse yet, a lame duck Republican president might sign hate crimes or ENDA, and the Democrats' lock on being the party of equality would be challenged.

    It all boils down to this: Democrats have controlled Congress for six months now, and no gay rights bill has made it to their priority list for passage. Now, according to HRC, all we've got is a "commitment" for a vote on hate crimes "this year." Even if that happens, that still leaves ENDA, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and a half-dozen other gay rights bills languishing in Congress.

    And when "this year" is over, and maybe hate crimes at best will have gotten a vote, we already know what we'll be told because we've heard it so many times before: 2008 is an election year, and gay rights is too hot a potato to touch right now. Now more than ever is the time for action from our "courageous" Senate allies Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. They've all promised "leadership" on gay rights if elected president, so let's see some "leadership" now and demand a vote in the Senate on the gay rights bills that are pending.

    And just to get this out of the way (for the 100th time): By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation. Even our friends in Congress are politicians first and will take the path of least resistance. We need to make action more attractive than inaction for them. Look no further than the anti-war movement’s unrelenting pressure and the way Democrats have responded.  Only we have the votes on our bills that they do not.

    Regular readers will remember my tete-a-tete with "Bloggernista," who wrote on his blog, Pam's House Blend and Bilerico last week that Andrew Sullivan and I should quit sniping at HRC and focus on "the real work" of the gay rights movement: calling Senate offices to pass the hate crimes bill. Like that would have made a difference. Now I have a question for Bloggernista: When will we wake up to the reality that HRC's willingness to be co-opted by the Democrats, and the Democrats willingness to play politics with our equality, is really where we need to focus our attention?

    If the gay blogosphere and its supporters really want to be effective, we’ll put aside championing lost causes like Mike Gravel and join together to press HRC and the Democrats for a vote on hate crimes by the end of the summer, and ENDA by the end of the year. Bring our bills to a vote! Bring our bills to a vote!

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    Comments

    1. Amicus on Jul 20, 2007 7:46:03 AM:

      pressing "friendly" Democrats
      ------
      Please be s-p-e-c-f-i-c. What do you want the HRC to do, as in 1-2-3?

      For instance, do you want them to call Harry Reid and lambast him for taking down the bill?

      Do you want them to issue a press release, demanding an introduciton with full floor reading of a bill?

      etc.

    1. Tim C on Jul 20, 2007 1:34:04 PM:

      I believe both of what Amicus suggests ought to be done. Why the reticence to introduce the hate crimes bill as stand-alone legislation? Let it rise or fall on its own merits. The tactic of trying to hide it in non-germain legislation makes it seem like, should the legislation pass, that it really doesn't have significant support, but was passed because of the carrier bill. It always gives your opponents legislation to dig away at it if it can't be shown to have strength on its own.

      And why do we mess with hate crimes, ENDA, DADT piecemeal anyway? Why do we not feel confident enough to demand that sexual orientation be covered by Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act? All I've ever been told is "Oh, that would be too dangerous". Oh? How? Both sides of the aisle have in the past five years attempted to have groups such as pregnant women, nursing women and police officers covered. Why are we afraid to demand full civil rights equity?

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 20, 2007 1:47:18 PM:

      Fair point, Andoni, and I rewrote the last three graphs of the post to be clearer about what I think ought to be done. If the gay blogosphere combined to press for votes on our civil rights legislation the way it did on Mike Gravel (of all things), it could have a real impact.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Jul 20, 2007 2:12:05 PM:

      "By criticizing these Democrats, I am not saying Republicans are better. Of course they're not. And anyone who suggests differently should have their head examined. But the question is whether our energy is better spent complaining about conservative Republicans we’ll never change or pressing "friendly" Democrats who actually control the fate of gay rights legislation."

      And therein is demonstrated why "pressing for votes" is doomed to fail.

      The Democrats will simply answer back, "So what are you going to do if we don't -- vote for Republicans and give them your money? Hahahahaha!"

    1. Tim C on Jul 20, 2007 2:30:27 PM:

      Sorry, wrong about police officers, but I did find a citation to have veterans covered, due to Vietnam War-era fears of returning soldiers being discriminated against by anti-war employers, landlords, etc.

      North Dallas Forty makes yet another good point for the need for a stable third party. A two party system, made up of two parties that seem increasingly held hostage by their extremes, leaves many stranded and disillusioned in the middle.

    1. tim on Jul 20, 2007 5:04:06 PM:

      I was kind of flabbergasted when I found out the hate crimes amendment was in with the war bill. For one thing ever senator knows it wasn't going to pass so adding it on there was simple showmanship. If anyone does talk with their Reps about this I just want you to realize that they never meant for this to pass.

    1. Brian Miller on Jul 20, 2007 5:37:43 PM:

      Occasionally, HRC's incompetence and overreliance on the Democratic Party delivers a welcome result. The failure of "hate crimes" legislation is one of them.

      As gay people, we should be focused on getting equal rights first -- not demanding special rights in the form of declaring that those who attack us are worthy of worse punishment than those who attack the average Joe.

    1. Double T on Jul 20, 2007 6:55:12 PM:

      Why is the entire burden thrown on the shoulders of HRC? Why didn’t the LOG CABIN Republican swing into action and to something? Anything? I see on their website that they are “winning”. So why aren’t the great gains of LCR mentioned?

      This was taken from their website
      Across the country, there is a steady wave of support moving toward equality.

      I was shocked to see anyone bothering to talk about Gravel. He is not very high up on the food chain. So…..omg!!!………where does that put LCR??? Why is it went people talk about Gay politics, suddenly we are a one party country?

      I’d like to hear more from the Gay Right. And I’m only half joking.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Jul 20, 2007 7:18:58 PM:

      Question, Double T: why on earth are you now whining about the alleged failure to help you by people who you previously categorized as "self-loathing"? ( http://citizenchris.typepad.com/citizenchris/2007/07/eternally-bitte.html#comment-76009048 )

      Second, the "real gays" don't want them around ( http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showComment.do?commentId=25149 ).

      "They roll out the RED CARPET for their tribe to get into the BOX CARS, and head one way to CAMPS.
      Those KAPOS and their self loathing minions in Log Cabin Repigs better stay the F*CK out of our businesses, our neighborhoods...unless they want the SAME fate as the original KAPOs.
      Mehlman, Rove, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Drudge, Charlie Christ, David Dreier, Scott McClellan = Neo-KAPOs!

      These traitors have done MORE to arm other QUEERS than the Christian Reich...if I was them I'd be booking passage to Dubai along with Halliburton executives, as soon as Cheney/Bush are out of office (and can't protect them)...they are TOAST!"

      I also think that's a great argument for why hate-crimes laws are nothing but hooey and hypocrisy; as we can see here, gay leftists are allowed to spew hatred and threaten violence left and right, and nothing happens.

    1. John on Jul 20, 2007 9:53:20 PM:

      Why am I picturing ND30 singing "We Shall Overcome?" and leading a quest for the right to never have people say nasty things about you?

      I had no idea that conservatives and the LCR were so traumatized by people being mean to them that they can no longer lobby their fellow Republicans.

      As for the "hatred" of gay leftists, it's pretty hard to see how that relates to merits of hate crimes laws.

    1. Paul Holzapfel on Jul 21, 2007 12:05:02 AM:

      Look fellow gay citizens, Canada now has equal rights for all gay people...not just equal marriage rights, but full unencumbered EQUAL RIGHTS...PERIOD. As citizens of the USA, we should not stop until we achieve nothing less. I will let gay persons smarter and more political savvy than I to argue how best to achieve this obtainable goal and in the shortest amount of time, but this should be the carrot that leads the way for all. Go for broke, namely, equality under the law with no exceptions.

      Someone needs to explain to this expatriate what to do with my next vote for POTUS. Do I sit this one out because NO democratic canidate thus far can give me anything other than empty promises? As Craine put it so succintly "They've all promised "leadership" on gay rights if elected president, so let's see some "leadership" now and demand a vote in the Senate on the gay rights bills that are pending".
      Of course I am not optimistic of this "leadership" happening any time soon but I am forever hopeful.
      My answer to my own question is this; If I see such "leadership" in the gay equality rights arena from any candidate, that person will get my vote and unwavering support of financial and otherwise (republican, democrat or independent). If I do not see such leadership I will sit this one out. Maybe it is just that simple. I will let the democratic candidates aware of my reasoning and intentions of course, but something tells me that they just don't give a damn. Gay people like me are just not important enough to them when you have the HRC crowd giving away their money, influence? and votes to candidates just so that they are invited to the correct parties.....or is there another reason that I have missed out on?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Jul 21, 2007 12:25:18 AM:

      "Why am I picturing ND30 singing "We Shall Overcome?" and leading a quest for the right to never have people say nasty things about you?"

      Hard to say, but my guess is that, like most gays, it's easy for you to project onto those who don't agree with you the hissy fits over "nasty things" being said that you ignore among those who do ( http://thetaskforce.org/press/releases/pr919_020206 )


      "As for the "hatred" of gay leftists, it's pretty hard to see how that relates to merits of hate crimes laws."

      Call me skeptical about people who are whining over the need for laws to prevent crime and harassment based on bias while making overt and direct threats of violence and actual incidents of harassment against people who they are biased against.

      And that leads us to this:

      "I had no idea that conservatives and the LCR were so traumatized by people being mean to them that they can no longer lobby their fellow Republicans."

      I have zero problem lobbying for if it's something important,John; that's why the Pension Protection Act of 2006 has a provision in it that allows tax-free transfers of retirement funds to designated beneficiaries regardless of spousal status. Your partner is no longer stuck with having to cash out your retirement fund and take a huge tax hit if you die; that is something I did with the full knowledge that it would not make one whit of difference to the individuals like I cited whose entire existence seems to revolve around wishing death and destruction on people like me and our families.

      But when it comes to hate crimes and employment discrimination, what exactly should we tell them? "It's important to give protections against employment harassment and violent threats/statements/acts to people who are harassing us at our workplace and who are making violent threats/statements/acts against us"?

      Kind of hard to argue against employment discrimination and harassment, for instance, when the major gay organizations like HRC has staffers supporting campaigns that do exactly that to those against who HRC and most Democrat gays are biased. Or to argue that bias crimes should be punished more when prominent gay writers are supporting the activists committing and promoting such crimes and harassment with "business relationships".

    1. Citizen Crain on Jul 21, 2007 2:41:14 AM:

      I think Double T raises a good point about LCR and it's one I have been meaning to explore. The whole organization seems to have gone into hiatus since the departure of Patrick Guerriero. There's a whole lot they could be doing in a visible way today. Remember the Log Cabin donations delivered to Bob Dole and George W. Bush? Remember the requests to meet with candidates in a public way to show gays aren't lepers within the GOP? There's no need to wait till the party has a nominee to get to work.

      To my fellow expat Paul: It's way too early to decide what to do with your POTUS vote. But I can tell you right now that sitting on it is always the wrong move. Can you vote in a primary? (Guess I gotta figure that one out myself!)

    1. Amicus on Jul 21, 2007 9:29:18 AM:

      My comment above wasn't meant to be hyper critical. I honestly believe that most people are forthright in their interest in advancing rights, without making political hay along the way. Besides, you improve the odds of getting what you want if there is a good case for something specific. (It helps, also, to keeping focus, because, well, ... of this, "It's whether leading Democrats will make it a priority to keep the amendment in the DoD authorization bill and then not blink if Bush threatens veto.")

      I hope that Allison has a chance, via some communications channel, to elaborate on their thinking, without compromising too much.

      I'm guessing that it is an indication of seriousness that hate-crimes is attached to a must-vote bill, like the DoD reauthorization. Some of the most important other amendments will also accompany this bill (like Senator Spectre's Habeus Corpus stuff for King George "The Decider").

      For myself, I'd like to see forward momentum on the hate-crimes stuff and on DADT, rather than ENDA (again).

      And, yes, the calculation is political. I think both those issues "work" in the upcoming general elections.

      After that, I would very much have liked to see Immigration Equality put up with the Grand Immigration Exercise (although I should probably re-read that legislation - I'm not sure it has been vetted enough. Is it a direct challenge to DOMA, as it stands?).

      Despite strong public opinion in favor of workplace non-discrimination, there are enough people who think like Brian Miller (above) that it could be an issue for the Presidency, at the margin. If not, then I don't have the numbers to show that it will not.

      Perhaps one of our political organizations can share their polling data in full, on that.

    1. Amicus on Jul 21, 2007 9:35:59 AM:

      without compromising too much
      ----
      by that I mean, without tipping their hand on any negotiation strategy, etc.

    1. Bloggernista on Jul 21, 2007 10:33:21 AM:

      Chris,

      You make some really good point in this post. We have not put nearly enough pressure on the Democrats to push through LGBT civil rights bills. We have given the Democrats too many passes and have not done a strong enough job in taking out Democrats who do not vote with us.

      When I have said before that we need to do the grunt work of building serious grassroots pressure to light a fire under the butts of our Democratic allies, this is part of what I mean. We all need to be making a much better effort to build support among moderate Republicans. And, we need to build the kind of strength needed to electorally take out anyone who seeks to harm us.
      The hate crimes bill was added to the DOD authorization bill because that would make it much harder for President Bush to veto the bill which he has said that he would do. Its a smart strategy that has hit a serious snag.

      When you say that the Dems have been in the majority for six months and no gay rights bill has made it to their priority list you are correct. But, that's partially because we have not forced them to make it a priority and because the Republicans have played obstructionist at every turn and have blocked most legislation from passing. Its not just the LGBT community that has been experiencing legislative frustration, so has the environmental movement, the African-American and Latino communities, gun safety advocates and others including the anti-war movement.

      My point is that we need a much stronger coordinated strategy for moving legislation forward that utilizes a multiplicity of tactics. We also need to help our national organizations get better and stronger and we need to be prepare to remove from office targeted members of Congress who do not support LGBT equality.

    1. Amicus on Jul 21, 2007 12:26:24 PM:

      My point is that we need a much stronger coordinated strategy for moving legislation forward that utilizes a multiplicity of tactics.
      ===
      I agree.

      What's more, we need to resist being put into the box that 'Conservative Gays' - whatever that is - would force us into.

      In the 2004 general election, only 77% of gays voted democratic, surprisingly, according to some polling.

      Of course, you won't see Andrew Sullivan blog about that, perhaps because it doesn't fit with his relentless anti-HRC meme that they take "our" / *everyone's* money.

      What's more, he has yet to seriously suggest where people *should* put their money, making his agenda look more plainly partisan than ever.

      Nor does he take up the challenge that Chris does and say what he wants HRC to do, specifically.

    1. Michael Petrelis on Jul 21, 2007 5:15:30 PM:

      Hey Chris,

      Another good analysis about what's wrong with HRC's approach, the Dems not delivering and bringing much-needed sunshine to the whole process of how our issues are addressed in Congress. Check out my blog post on all this.

      Click here:
      http://mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2007/07/gay-city-news-hrc-troops-mia-hrc-pac.html

    1. Double T on Jul 22, 2007 2:03:32 AM:

      North Dallas Thirty ~ Quite a little rant you’ve got there. Honey, your drama level is at a 10, bring it down to about a 2.

      # 1) I’m not whining.

      #2) The real gays(??) don’t want them around. ~ My advice, figure out where you lost your balls and go get them.

      #3) Do I have a problem with Gay Republicans. Absolutely. My problem however isn’t the standard default of hating republicans in general. This is my problem; some of the most talented people today are Gay Republicans. Yes, I said. I’m sure Chris Crain just fell out of his chair reading this. They have the “brightest light” in the room and they hide it under a basket.

      They aren’t living and working to their fullest potential and the country suffers for it. We suffer for it.

    1. Amicus on Jul 22, 2007 10:30:45 AM:

      One effort to inject some facts to go along with the difference in opinion.

      A Brief History of National Hate Crimes Legislation for Gays

      http://bootstrappingas.blogspot.com/2007/07/brief-history-of-national-hate-crimes.html

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Jul 22, 2007 12:12:46 PM:

      "#1) I’m not whining."

      Complaining, grousing, bitching, kvetching, growling, whatever....call it what you like, it's all the same thing.

      Now, to #3 first:

      "They have the “brightest light” in the room and they hide it under a basket."

      How so?

      The vast majority of the ones I know are out at work, to friends, to family, and whatnot.

      What they don't do, though, is make excuses for why gay leftists and organizations like HRC who support and threaten physical violence against them and their families, or harass them at work for being of the wrong political affiliation, in any way need or deserve "hate-crimes" protections or employment protections.

      And that leads us into this:

      "#2) The real gays(??) don’t want them around. ~ My advice, figure out where you lost your balls and go get them."

      My dear, trust me, I've been called far worse than that.

      But what I'm bringing up here is that the gay left and Democrats whine and cry, about so-called "hate speech" from others and how the people affiliated with those others should confront it........but then, when given examples of their own, more-violent hate speech, insist that others should "tough it out".

      If you oppose hate, why don't you go after it among your own? Is it because you and your fellow gay leftists don't have the balls to confront hatemongers among the gay left?

    1. Andoni on Jul 22, 2007 12:19:13 PM:

      We've been on the wrong track since 1994 when ENDA was conceived. The incremental shit hasn't worked, doesn't work and will keep us chained to our masters (the politicians that say they support our issues) as they continue to make promises we believe but they never diliver on. I think we should start asking presidential candidates if they believe in the full equality of the gay individual. And if so, would they support a constitutional amendment that would make gay people in every way equal to straight people, just like the Canadian Charter (the equivalent of their Bill of Rights) does for our neighbor to the North. That would be my new litmus test for a presidential candidate. If only HRC could pull itself from the tit long enough to do this, I think we would start getting results.

    1. Tim C on Jul 22, 2007 5:45:24 PM:

      Andoni: Exactly.

    1. Double T on Jul 23, 2007 11:55:41 AM:

      North Dallas,
      ...why gay leftists and organizations like HRC who support and threaten physical violence against them and their families, or harass them at work for being of the wrong political affiliation...HRC is NOT some gay mafia, "whacking" people. If they did, the Republicans would have a field day. They would have Joe S. dragged out of HRC HQ in cuffs in front of the entire Washington Press Corp...........Now, take a deep breath, now don't you see how silly your comments are?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Jul 24, 2007 12:22:11 AM:

      "HRC is NOT some gay mafia, "whacking" people."

      I didn't say they were "whacking" people; I said they were supporting and threatening physical violence against gay people of the wrong political affiliation and their families, and harassing them at work.

      Instead of trying to hyperbolize what I said, why not confront directly why hate speech, harassment, and threats of violence are not only tolerated, but openly encouraged,by HRC and gay Democrats?

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