Metro Weekly

News Analysis: The Changed Landscape, and the New Focus

Although the changed political winds in Washington, D.C., spell an end to any likely chance of the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the 112th Congress, the continued Democratic majority in the Senate (along with increasingly pro-LGBT public opinion) has, perhaps, also quelched the interest in pursuit of strong anti-LGBT efforts in the House.

There certainly do continue to be politicians like Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who introduced the legislation aimed at increasing the number of people required to certify that the military is ready for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who expressed his support for ending D.C. marriage equality. At the same time, though, even House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) passed by an opportunity at a news conference to express support for Hunter’s bill, saying instead that he will “see what the [House Armed Services] committee recommends.” And, Jordan’s proposal, floated in January, has not seen the light of day.

The fact is that, in addition to the focus on jobs and deficits and budgets, there does not seem to be a strong desire in either chamber to tee up an LGBT issue — pro or con — when it appears to be destined for a loss at the end of the day. The Democrats in the Senate — in addition to facing a possible filibuster on their side of the Capitol — appear unlikely to push LGBT issues that have no chance of movement in the House. At the same time, Republicans in the House don’t seem anxious — unlike with abortion rights and public broadcasting and a host of other issues — to push similar anti-LGBT legislation, whether because of a changed perception of LGBT issues or a knowledge that such measures will fail in the Senate.

With a stalemate at the federal legislative level, however, state legislative action and court action, as expected, have taken on a greater importance — or at least heightened visibility. From passage of civil unions in Hawaii to protection of marriage equality in New Hampshire and with lawmakers aimed at constitutional amendments stopping marriage (or more) in the future in Indiana and North Carolina, the states have been a hotbed of fast and furious activity. This past week in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed an executive order prohibiting “gender identity or expression” discrimination in state employment, and, a few weeks earlier in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed the state’s civil unions bill into law.

Meanwhile, in the courts, the Log Cabin Republicans continue to press their case against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Because the certification required to end the policy has not yet occured, the law remains in effect and LCR continues to push the case. In the absence of a specific nondiscrimination policy, moreover, it appears possible that repeal of 10 U.S.C. 654 — the DADT law — might not render the lawsuit completely moot, which could cause significant difficulties for the Obama administration moving forward.

 

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