November 26, 2008
ENDA vs civil unions
Posted by: Andoni
It's been two weeks since I first noticed and reported that we have a tremendous opportunity to take a giant leap forward in civil rights by passing a federal recognition of civil unions law. Chris has elaborated on this proposal here and here.
I was prompted to think about this by all my religious conservative relatives who called me after the repeal of same sex marriage in California (Prop 8). They said they could not support marriage for us, but certainly believe our relationships should be honored equally and that they could support civil unions. These are strong religious folks supporting civil unions. They are (sort of) fair minded people, but hung up on the "M" word. Unfortunately, that's the reality of what's holding us back. No amount of education is going to change these people's minds. We have to wait a generation until they die before we get a strong majority in this country supporting same sex marriage. That's 10 to 20 years.
Whereas now we have about 48% percent of the population who support marriage for us and 50% who oppose it. But of the 50% who oppose, 30% are homophobic and oppose most gay rights, whereas 20% are only hung up on the word marriage. That makes a very convincing majority that would support recognition of our relationships as civil unions -- right now. This 68% support corresponds with the 66% support Chris cites. That's about the same percentage of support HRC claims for a non inclusive ENDA, in its questionable best case scenario poll. Of note is that the House of Representatives passed the non inclusve ENDA with only a 56% support level --- which is probably a more realistic number for support of the non inclusvie ENDA. For the trans inclusive ENDA, the percentage falls to below 50%. They could not get a majority of the House to pass a T inclusive ENDA last year.
So here is the problem with our current strategy. Our national organizations such as HRC and our political leaders such as Cong. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin have made it clear that the next time the only version of ENDA will be the T inclusive ENDA (the one that has less than 50% support). Furthermore, I've been told that Hate Crimes and a T inclusive ENDA will be the first two bills we bring up. And to make matters worse, many leaders are telling me that these will be the ONLY two gay bills brought up before the 2010 midterm elections. Duh?
So a T inclusive ENDA has less popular support than a civil unions bill, yet our leaders are hell bent on ENDA. Our leaders are so fixated on ENDA, that they cannot see when there is clear sailing in front of us in another possible direction where we can make huge gains. You know we are making progress on recognition of our relationships when a key member of the religious right, Michael Medved, says he supports civil unions for us. A civil union recognition bill (just don't call it marriage) is an easy sell to members of Congress as well. I bumped into Congressman Hank Johnson two days ago and described such a bill and it only took him two seconds to ask who was sponsoring it because he wanted to be a co-sponsor. Our leaders have been perseverating on ENDA since 1994, regardless of other more fertile opportunities that may be at hand.
We are so asleep at the switch that there isn't even a federal recognition of civil unions bill being written to be introduced, even though President-elect Obama says this is one of his civil rights priorities.
My suggestion, introduce both a T inclusive ENDA and a civil union recognition bill and see which gets the most co-sponsors. Do polling and see which has the most popular support. Pass Hate Crimes first and then decide on a whether a T inclusive ENDA or civil unions goes next. Choose whichever one can get through. But for heavens sake don't allow ENDA to hang up all other legislation. If it doesn't have the votes, move it aside and go for another bill that has support. Don't block the path for all other bills because ENDA is stuck.
Let's become smarter and more creative with our legislation. We should not use the same thinking that we've been using for 15 years that has gotten us nowhere.
The above map details all the European governments that recognize same sex relationships in one way or another. Here is the key. Below is the the map and key for all the states that honor same sex relationships. Federal recognition of civil unions could change the lower map to one of light blue from coast to coast. And I would bet that this is easier to do than a trans inclusive ENDA at the moment.
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