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  • « Toward a more civil union (II) | Main | Will Obama follow Rudd's example? »

    November 26, 2008

    ENDA vs civil unions

    Posted by: Andoni

    EuropeIt'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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    1. DaveA on Nov 26, 2008 5:40:44 PM:

      No thanks! Separate but equal is not good enough. I want the word Marriage now more than ever! I could care less who supports "civil unions" let Michael Medved have a civil union I want to marry my boyfriend.

    1. Pender on Nov 26, 2008 7:13:43 PM:

      Civil unions on the federal level would be an enormous leap forward for the cause of equality. We can (and will) be back for full marriage later, and having civil unions in the interim means that the country will start getting used to the idea of gay couples being treated like families. Of course civil unions aren't good enough, but we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    1. repeal8 on Nov 26, 2008 7:52:15 PM:

      From a legal perspective, I think there is a huge fault with your idea. The big problem with a federal civil unions bill as a substitute for ENDA is that its primary benefits would only help those lucky enough to live in a state that already has some form of legal relationship recognition, i.e. marriage/d.p./civil unions. Because marriage is regulated primarily by the states, arguably the most important benefits associated with marriage (like inheritance, hospital visitation, health benefits) wouldn't be accessible to the LGBT people who don't live in a gay-friendly state. There are many important federal marriage rights, of course, like immigration, social security survivor benefits, etc. However, marriage is primarily regulated by the states, meaning many of the primary and most immediate benefits flow from the states.

      Also, employment discrimination is an endemic problem in the LGBT community, ESPECIALLY in "red" states. Not having these protections leads to the perpetuation of the closet and the associated psychological damage that is a result of living in the closet because folks need to hide to keep their jobs. Also, even if you do try to "hide," let's not forget that many LGBT people are "obviously" gay (whatever that means) and are discriminated on the basis of the perception of their homosexuality or their non-conforming gender identity.

    1. andoni on Nov 26, 2008 9:00:53 PM:

      repeal8, I'm not saying that if we get civil unions we give up ENDA. I am merely suggesting an ordering based on what is possible. I'm not arguing which is more important, I'm arguing which is more possible. My numbers seem to indicate that federal recognition of civil unions might be possible before a trans inclusive ENDA is. After hate crimes passes, should we put everything on "pause" because there isn't enough support for a T-inclusive ENDA? I think that would be crazy. I say if we have another bill that can pass, we should pass it while continuing to work on ENDA. They both are very important.

      As for your analysis of marriage and the state, there are important benefits from both state and federal governments. Whether we get federal recognition of civil unions or repeal of DOMA to get marriage, a person in one of the bad states would still have to go to a good state to either get unioned or married, and then go back home. Theoretically, if someone did this, then federal benefits would be available to people in all 50 states.

      However, I would bet that civil union recognition can happen many years before repeal of DOMA can, and that would be the quickest way to get these benefits to people in all 50 states. Gay people are suffering too everywhere because they don't have the federal benefits of straight people who are married. This would get a solution to them in the fastest way. Meanwhile we still work on marriage.

      As they say, politics is the art of the possible.

    1. Glenn I on Nov 27, 2008 12:31:51 AM:

      Maybe in the spirit of the new post-partisan world a Republican can be found to introduce this national civil unions bill?

    1. Fiona on Nov 27, 2008 9:05:16 AM:

      Dave A - re "I want to marry my boyfriend" - I just want to live with my partner and a Fed Civ Union Bill would achieve that goal - it's progress its a step in the right direction may common sense prevail - this bill needs to be written and legislated on the sooner the better.

    1. JBY on Nov 27, 2008 4:16:54 PM:

      DaveA, I respect your right to wait for marriage, I hope you can respect my right to try to get civil unions now. I need some federal benefits ASAP. We should not try to trip each other up. I won't do anything to oppose marriage and I hope you wont do anything to oppose civil unions. Deal?

    1. DaveA on Nov 27, 2008 5:55:55 PM:

      Fine if some of you people want to be second class citizens then by all means take your civil unions. I want more, and refuse to settle for less. I don't think our enemies are going to sit still for a federal civil union bill, they want to legislate us back into the closet. I understand that comprise is necessary sometimes, but I think the majority of us Queers are done waiting patiently for our rights.

    1. Wes on Nov 29, 2008 11:54:55 PM:

      Sometimes I feel our battle to obtain the 1200+ benefits given to straight married couples is hopeless. On the one hand we have psycho christians to deal with. And on the other we have gays like DaveA. Idealistic people that cannot seem to fathom that progress is achieved incrementally.

      I would add--- I believe that any church has the right NOT to recognize or perform a gay marriage.Heck I also believe that any church has the right to refuse to marry anyone they do not want to marry-- However, I likewise believe that our secular government has the responsibility to convey these 1200+ benefits currently only conveyed to straight married couples in an equal manner--to both straight and gay couples. I am not sure what DaveA is holding out for here. The right to stand in the 1st Baptist Church of Tyler, Texas and wed his betrothed? Keep waiting because it will not happen. And you can wait until Jesus comes back to earth with the 17 angels trumpeting and it still will not happen. The deacons will burn the church to the ground first.

    1. Kevin on Nov 30, 2008 12:23:23 PM:

      You guys are dreaming, which is fine. But it has little connection to political reality.

      If you want anything from the federal government for the next two years, you'll have to take a page out of Harvey Milk's playbook: organize, shove the gay 'leadership' aside, make unbending demands and fight like hell both in the street and behind the scenes until you win.

      Given the self-destructive HRCification of the gay American movement, however, this is a fantasy at best. It won't happen.

    1. Russrob on Dec 1, 2008 8:13:08 AM:

      Pardon me but I do not believe Michael Medved or any of the right wing crowd. I do not believe we should accept Civil Unions; they are the same old separate but equal. Separate but equal status is inherently unequal. I was married in August and I do not want to give it up. I cannot believe anyone would suggest a step backward.

    1. Charlie on Dec 2, 2008 1:13:36 PM:

      I do not believe we should accept Civil Unions; they are the same old separate but equal.

      Considering that what we have now in many places is complete discrimination and virtually no partnership rights at all, wouldn't separate but EQUAL be better than just separate?

      We all want equality, but the tricky part is figuring out how to get there. If we can't even agree what we're going to fight for, what chance could we possibly have of succeeding?

    1. DaveA on Dec 2, 2008 10:19:49 PM:

      We fail because we have a bunch of whimpy, whiny, don't want to offend anyone leaders. They need to get their heads out of the sand. We will achieve nothing by begging. Has any other civil rights victory been achieved without dissent, marches, boycotts, and yes offending people? The answer is no. I for one am not giving a dime to any of our loser gay organizations, or any smiling, slimy democratic politicians who promise us the world. The problem is I now need a Republican to step up, to not be anti-gay, or anti-immigrant or anti-choice...hell I will even take pro civil unions, and I would vote for him or her.

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