Site moved to, redirecting in 2 seconds!

« Stupak amendment would result in massive cut in abortion access | Main | Sotomayor unleashed »

November 12, 2009

Who's on first? Congress and states reshuffle lgbt issues - Updated

In  last week's election, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia delivered a triple whammy to progressives.  Although it is a mistake to treat these results as a herald of conservative resurgence - polls also show strong support for a public option in health reform, for example - it is nonetheless silly to deny that winning the elections in those three states (or two, or one) would have been a lot better than losing all of them. Instead, marriage bit the dust in yet another ballot contest; and Dems in Congress are spooked by the loss of the two governorships, no matter how many op-eds proclaim that the results were driven by local issues.

So what happens as a result?  As one of the most vulnerable and expendable of Dem priorities, lgbt issues look considerably shakier than they did two weeks ago.

In Congress, Rep. Barney Frank - who, whatever his faults, often speaks realpolitik to wishful thinking - now says that ENDA will likely get to the House floor in February.  This is not what advocates were thinking two weeks ago, when the sense was that mark-up in the House, followed by a floor vote, could happen before Thanksgiving, certainly before Christmas.  Instead, Barney is predicting that domestic partner benefits for federal employees is likely to jump the queue, moving ahead of ENDA in the sequence of lgbt rights legislation. Okay, federal employee benefits is an important issue. But ENDA is the bill that will shift workplace dynamics and help achieve basic material equality for every lgbt person in the nation who is employed. 

The difference between the two? ENDA includes transgender persons; partner benefits does not implicate that issue. In other words, this is ugly. And dangerous. It is ESSENTIAL that both the House and the Senate pass ENDA before the 2010 election season begins in a few months, around spring break in academic-speak. (In some, mostly Beltway, politics-obsessed quarters, it began on November 5, 2008.)

(UPDATE 11/17 - The mark-up in the House committee on the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act will be next Wednesday, November 18. You can watch it here. The mark-up on ENDA was originally set for the 18th, but has been postponed, with no new date set.)

And in the states -

In New Jersey, the plan was always that the lame duck legislative session would enact a marriage law, regardless of who won the governor's race. That is still the plan, but it looks less like a lock than it once did.  Soon to be ex-Governor Jon Corzine will sign a marriage law if it gets to him in the two months remaining in his term. After that, incoming Governor Chris Christie has vowed to veto such a bill. Although the top job changed hands, there was essentially no change in the party breakdown in the legislature. So will the deal to pass a new marriage bill hold, or will the Maine vote scare off enough legislators to delay any possibility in NJ for another four years? Apparently, there is little doubt that a marriage bill would make it through the state house, but the state senate vote is likely to be a squeaker.

And New York ...What can I say -- New York's state legislature has been dysfunctional for so long that even the smallest sign of adulthood looks like up from here. Governor David Paterson, who is as strong a supporter of marriage equality as any non-gay politician anywhere, has apparently struck a deal with state senate leaders to guarantee that there will be vote on the issue before Christmas. (See Gay City News for a fascinating account of the machinations.) Which side will win this vote is anybody's guess.

If we get to New Year's Day 2010 and neither New York nor New Jersey has legalized gay marriage, that campaign will be hitting its lavender ceiling much sooner than the advocacy groups expected.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Who's on first? Congress and states reshuffle lgbt issues - Updated:


As it turns out, today it was announced that the markup on ENDA in the House committee will in fact occur next Wednesday. So perhaps it will move on the faster track. Gosh knows. This is like a rollercoaster ride.

My understanding is that there is a struggle to bring ENDA to the floor by Christmas, but the more realistic bet is early 2010.

The comments to this entry are closed.