Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama has been busy, but will sign the symbolic Matthew Shepard Act

By: Tony Begley

I admit that along with the rest of the gay community, the contributors here at United We Stand have been tough on U.S. President Obama.

U.S. State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton has done more for LGBTI people since assuming office for the U.S. Department of State... all it takes is her signature and it becomes policy. (previous story# 1), and (previous story # 2)

But, Obama has been extremely busy:

According to the New York Post (source), and CBS’ Mark Knoller: "President Barack Obama has only been in office for just over nine months, but he’s already hit the links as much as President Bush did in over two years. On October 26, 2009 – "Obama ties Pres. Bush in the number of rounds of golf played in office: 24. It took Bush 2 yrs & 10 months.”

One cannot help but wonder if the super popular gay blogger, author, and real estate guru Andrew Sullivan's summary of Obama is correct. (previous story # 1), and (previous story # 2)

Let us not forget that the Obama administration decided to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) after being sued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, even as Obama has stated publicly he plans to seek repeal in Congress. (previous story)

President Obama is scheduled to sign Wednesday what is being described as the nation's first significant pro-gay rights legislation. Attached to the defense authorization act, the measure would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the list of protected classes under the 1969 federal hate-crimes law. But it isn't because he has lobbied for it.

Kentucky has a hate crimes law, and the U.S. Department of Justice has no jurisdiction unless state lines are crossed, and since all states and the U.S. Government (itself a state) are all sovereign, neither enforce the others laws.

The Washington Post reports:

A state can ask the U.S. Justice Department to step in if it lacks a hate-crimes law but feels such charges are warranted (18 states do not have a law addressing hate crimes based on sexual orientation).

The law doesn't outlaw bigotry or "thought crimes." It applies only to "violent acts motivated by" the characteristics of the victim -- acts, not thoughts or speech. But crimes that target someone because of race or sexual orientation are more than offenses against that individual. They can terrorize whole communities.

While this is an advance, more important legislation awaits: banning workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation, ending the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military, and allowing same-sex marriage. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) must make it a priority to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act. President Obama has repeatedly said he'd sign those bills into law.

It's time for Congress to follow through.

It is a disgrace that it has taken Congress
11 years after University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was tortured and left to die on a fence post outside Laramie, Wyoming to act, even though this legislation is more symbolic than anything (unless state lines are crossed) it is still a step in the right direction.


Polronas Egg said...

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