Two weeks ago Monday, I moved back to Washington, D.C. That Wednesday, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act -- which I had worked on when I lived in D.C. more than 10 years ago in the '90s -- became law.
A week later, the U.S. Senate held a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which had received a vote -- albeit an unsuccessful one -- in the Senate before I had left D.C. in 1998. There are hopes now that the House could soon vote on the bill, which now is inclusive of both gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination, and that the Senate could take up the bill early next year.
On Tuesday, D.C. City Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary reported out of committee the marriage equality bill introduced by openly gay councilman David Catania -- who was first elected to the city council back in 1997 -- and take another step toward passing marriage equality in the District.
Of course, this past Tuesday -- despite successes in Washington state and Kalamazoo, Mich. -- ended with another defeat for marriage equality at the ballot box in Maine. I was reminded that night of another fight from the '90s, when Maine voters narrowly rejected a nondiscrimination measure. The nondiscrimination measure, defeated at the polls in 1998, became law in 2005.
Also on Tuesday, though, the country saw extraordinary successes for openly LGBT candidates, from Houston, Texas, to Canton, Ohio. As the Victory Fund noted, it was the most successful non-federal election year in history for LGBT candidates, with more than 60 winning their races and several others -- including Annise Parker in the Houston mayor's race -- advancing to run-off elections.
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Progress is being made, and despite the outcome in Maine, we really are better off now than we were one year ago. And if we keep working, we will be better off next year than we are now.
As shown by the glacial progress made during the 11 years since I had left D.C. in 1998, though, the progress that we are making comes slowly -- more slowly than we deserve and certainly more slowly than we want. But we are at a point now -- a time that everyone, allies or not, sees -- where change is happening more quickly than ever before and when smart decisions in the short run could lead to fantastic, permanent gains toward full equality for LGBT citizens.
Then on Monday, the folks at AmericaBlog -- with some support, at least in name, from a few other liberal bloggers and activists -- decided to launch a campaign to urge people to stop giving donations to Democratic candidates or the Democratic National Committee until ENDA is passed and the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed.
This is ill-informed to the point of recklessness, and all equality advocates should be offended that John Aravosis would use his influence, such as it is, to attack the most pro-equality environment we've ever seen in this country.
Was the DNC right in failing to provide much-needed financial support for the No on 1 campaign in Maine? No. Should people sit down and find out what happened and why and publicly demand accountability? Yes. Is President Obama right in maintaining his campaign position opposing marriage equality? No. Should the LGBT community continue to push the president to fulfill his campaign promises that would advance LGBT equality? Of course.
Parting ways or disengaging with the DNC and Obama and his campaign apparatus right now could have tragic results. In the coming months, we expect action on ENDA and want support for D.C. marriage equality, should it occur. Will this AmericaBlog action help us gain support in either of those immediate goals? I suspect not. In a not altogether surprising way, the more successful Aravosis's efforts at this boycott are, the less likely we could be to see quick action on ENDA. As with his earlier position opposing the inclusion of gender identity protections in ENDA, Aravosis again could be a wrench in the passage of nondiscrimination protections for our communities.
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What's more, the absolute lack of a good-faith basis behind this stunt is clear from the inclusion of DOMA's repeal in AmericaBlog's demands. There's not a single member of Congress or an honest LGBT activist who actually believed that a repeal of DOMA was possible in this Congress this January. By including it, Aravosis guarantees that this effort can continue indefinitely.
Two weeks after returning to our nation's capital, I sat down this evening to answer the question, "Where are we?"
LGBT equality advocates finally have reached a point where real, long-term successes are possible if we continue on a forceful, but smart, path forward. The only way we could ruin that is by allowing anti-equality forces to win -- or by abandoning pro-equality people who, despite flaws, have long supported our efforts.