Berry: Hate Crimes May Pass Next Week
BY Kerry Eleveld
June 14 2009 12:00 AM ET
John Berry, the highest ranking LGBT official in the Obama administration, announced at Washington D.C.'s Capital Pride Festival Sunday that the Obama administration hopes to secure passage of Hate Crimes this coming week and that President Obama is soon to announce an initiative pertaining to providing federal LGBT employees with benefits equivalent to those provided to their heterosexual counterparts. He also said the administration fully intends to pass an employment nondiscrimination bill, repeal "don't ask, don't tell" and overturn the Defense of Marriage Act "before the sun sets on this administration."
Before Berry, who is director of the Office of Personnel Management overseeing 1.9 million federal workers, made the announcement, he spoke to The Advocate exclusively, saying that he wanted to "download" a few thoughts about the administration's intentions vis-à-vis LGBT issues.
The backstage exchange took place in a brief window before Berry took the stage at Capital Pride and seemed to be prompted by growing discontent in the community following the Justice Department's decision to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Berry also denied reports that any sort of "deal" had been cut by White House officials regarding LGBT legislation and when it would be accomplished.
Below are Berry's comments to The Advocate , along with his responses to a couple follow up questions.
Berry: In the blog world, there's been a lot of angst and allegations and charges flying, so the good news is, I've been authorized [by the administration] today to say everything that I'm going to be saying.
One of the first things I want to be clear about is that there are a lot of charges that there's been some secret deal or backroom deal, there isn't one. There isn't one, there is no secret deal. We are working in partnership with all LGBT groups, and all groups are doing what they should be doing, which is passionately representing their unique interests.
The administration's position is very simple and straightforward and what I'll be announcing today is both the short-term and long-term focus of this administration.
People are wondering what it is. It's very clear and this is directly from the White House:
Our first hope is that we will get our federal house in order and ensure that no discrimination exists in the federal work place against any of the LGBT community. [Note: This presumably pertains to the fact that transgender workers are still not protected by the federal government's nondiscrimination policy, though gay employees are covered.]
Second, we want to make sure that we get the benefits for the LGBT community that are equal to all other benefits provided to other federal employees, and where we have the authority to move forward, the president is going to be announcing something in the very near future that is going to be a very significant announcement in that regard. Where it requires legislation, we will seek and support it.