Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
Before looking at the possibilities of losing LGBT equality gains, two recent examples of progress. Both of these steps come after, quite literally, decades of work, by grassroots activists, and organizations (with a growing number of Electeds) at local, state and federal levels.
Army Brigadier General Tammy Smith has become the first openly gay flag officer to come out while currently serving in the U.S. military. She was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General in a private ceremony … at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. BG Smith received her stars from her wife, Tracey Hepner. …
According to Stars & Stripes
Friday’s … ceremony for Smith wasn’t the first that Hepner has attended, but it was the first where the pair didn’t have to hide any details of their relationship. The pair have been together for more than a decade.
A second example of stepping toward equality occurred with the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee. However much impact party platforms actually have, it is notable that the Committee did – as expected – include support of marriage equality, backing the repeal of DOMA, and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. Metro Weekly adds this caution:
Although historic in nature .. the platform plank, which will be voted on by delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. next month, may have limited broader impact.
It remains highly unlikely there will be any federal campaign for marriage equality and that marriage laws, which have almost always been left up to the states, will continue to be debated at the local level.
At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner writes about additional pro-LGBT elements.
The platform draft addresses both sexual orientation and gender identity in its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It does not, as the ACLU had hoped, endorse a specific LGBT nondiscrimination bill focused on students. …
Although President Obama has long endorsed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, his administration took fire from advocates … about his decision in April not to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
So, with that bit of recent “progress made” noted, and even with the cautions related to the platform and Obama’s really rather odd hesitancy regarding federal contractors, the question: Would Obama/Biden be better on LGBT equality than Romney/Ryan? Duh.
If Romney’s position on LGBT “issues” – or at least if his willingness to pander to the Righter wing – are indicated by his VP pick, then the worries about losing some of the gains made during Obama’s first term are understandable, if still speculative. After all, good numbers of LGBTs and allies expected Obama to come into office and take quick and dramatic “fierce advocate”-like actions. Turns out Mr. Obama likes to work slowly, cautiously, incrementally, and needs a good bit of public pushing and time to evolve. And as with most Electeds, an election year tends to bring out the goodies, too.
As for what we could expect in a Romney / Ryan administration, I wrote earlier, Paul Ryan’s Position on LGBT Rights are abysmal. Romney’s are better, but certainly nothing about which to be queerly proud.
Obviously it’s a guess, but in June the Washington Blade, ran a report that asked, Would President Romney undo pro-LGBT advances?
Many of the pro-LGBT advances that have happened under the Obama administration occurred through changes made by the executive branch rather than through legislation. … The Washington Blade has identified five regulatory changes and 16 sub-regulatory changes enacted by the Obama administration that could be reversed if Romney were elected to the White House. …
Romney hasn’t said he’d rescind “pro-LGBT regulatory changes,” but of course, what a Campaigner says and an Elected does are frequently different. If Romney / Ryan did want to change regulations
… the Administrative Procedures Act … prohibits a quick change … . Instituting new final regulations repealing these policies would be a multi-year process and require a justification for overturning them other than for political reasons. …
It’s the sub-regulatory initiatives where the most sweeping changes could be made. The time needed to change these would be shorter than the time needed to change more formal regulations, although it would vary from agency to agency and issue to issue. …
The Blade asked HRC if the Obama administration could take steps to “ensure the changes become more permanent.” The response:
… the sub-regulatory changes could be … upgraded to regulatory changes, but that process would be lengthy and cumbersome.
Meaning, such “upgrades” are highly unlikely before November. And since Obama didn’t do the “upgrade” versions in the first place, maybe not that likely in a second Obama term, either.
When Electeds at any level act in ways that result in equality, they deserve credit, as they deserve to be called out when they fail to act, or act in ways that limit equality. Related to LGBT equality, Obama had the opportunities to act more than all other presidents combined because LGBTs and our allies worked like hell, for decades, to get to the point such presidential actions were possible, and because they kept pushing him.
There’s a great deal more work to be done. Among other things, DOMA, with a whole host of state level mini-DOMAs, remain the law. And ENDA remains a bill. Whoever takes the oath on January 21, 2013, LGBT equality advocates will need to keep on working. As an admittedly simplistic framing: if it’s Obama, the work will be to solidify the gains, and keep pushing for more (including at state and local levels). If it’s Romney, the work will be to maintain and solidify the gains, and keep pushing for more (probably especially at the state and local levels).
(Photo via Stars and Stripes)