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    March 26, 2008

    The quiet death of ENDA, hate crimes

    Posted by: Chris

    Joesolmonesehrcla We all remember the days after Democrats took control of Congress in the November 2006 election, promising among other things that they would get right to passing long-delayed gay rights legislation like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Some of us grumbled that the vaunted "gay agenda" ought to go further, considering those bills have already passed in one form or another for a decade.

    More than a year after Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were sworn in as speaker and Senate majority leader, it now appears even our most limited expectations have been dashed. Consider this nugget from a speech by Joe Solmonese at the Human Rights Campaign's Los Angeles gala:

    A number of hurdles, as you know, made it impossible to move those bills any further this session.

    Say what? Last we heard, Ted Kennedy was introducing ENDA in January or February and would be searching for other legislative vehicles to attach the Shepard Act, after House Dems rejected it as an amendment to a big Defense Department. No excuses this time, we were assured, about how our civil rights being too "hot button" in an election year.

    But instead of lobbying from HRC to push these bills forward, we get a lecture from Solmonese about being impatient:

    When did we all say to ourselves -- OK, that civil rights thing -- I'll give it a year, maybe two - then everything should be done.

    A year? Who is he kidding? Solmonese may be late to the gay rights party, joining the movement only after he got a quarter-million-dollar job running HRC, but for most of us this ain't the first time at the rodeo. ENDA came with a vote of passing in 1996 -- more than a decade ago -- and both bills have been backed by a large majorities of the public and their reps in Congress for years.

    Hell yes we're impatient. Rather than motivating us into action and pressing Congress to do better, Solmonese is wagging his finger at us -- at us! -- and tamping down expectations. Call it the fierce urgency of next year.

    There's plenty of blame in Congress as well, of course. Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Pelosi deserve credit for getting both bills passed the House -- the trans-inclusive Shepard Act sailed through and ENDA hobbled through in gay-only form. But Reid has seemingly done nothing in the ENDA. (Maybe Hillary will do better as Senate majority leader next year?)

    Yes, the primary culprits here are congressional Republicans, who rejected a trans-inclusive ENDA and balked at backing the Shepard Act add-on to the DOD bill, as well as President Bush, who threatened to veto both. But the GOP doesn't rake in gay money, votes and loyalty based on promises to get things done. Democrats do. And it's HRC that hoovers up gay dollars nationwide, promising to bring change, while never delivering.

    They all have some 'splainin to do.

    (Photo of Joe Solmonese at HRC's L.A. dinner via Bilerico/Karen Ocamb)

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