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Frank: ‘Zero chance’ for LGBT bills next year

Gay congressman hopeful on ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal in lame duck

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Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who won re-election last week in one of his toughest challenges, said LGBT legislation would have no chance of passing in Congress under the Republican-controlled House next year.

In an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade, Frank also said he was confident that the Senate, of which Democrats retained control, would join President Obama in blocking any anti-gay bills that conservative Republicans might introduce over the next two years.

“Next year there’s no chance of anything happening,” he said of pro-LGBT legislation. “There’s zero chance.”

He added, “It will be a status quo. They don’t have the votes to hurt us but we don’t have the votes to advance anything in the cause.”

Frank also said he was certain that Republicans would fail in an attempt to overturn D.C.’s same-sex marriage law.

“Do you think Barack Obama is going to sign a bill to repeal the D.C. marriage law,” he asked. “It won’t go through the Senate. There is no chance that could happen. None—zero.”

Frank noted that only five out of 179 House Republicans voted earlier this year to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“The Republicans have become much more anti-gay in their voting patterns,” he said. “There is zero chance of anything good happening with Republicans in control of the House.”

Frank said he was hopeful that the Senate would vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the congressional lame duck session over the next two weeks. The House passed a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal measure earlier this year as part of a defense authorization bill.

The Senate killed a similar defense authorization bill containing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language in a filibuster organized by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Every Senate Republican voted against a cloture motion to break the filibuster.

Frank noted that a number of GOP senators cited the Senate bill’s inclusion of a controversial immigration provision known as the DREAM Act as their reason for voting against the bill, saying they otherwise would have supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told him he won’t insert the DREAM Act immigration language in the defense authorization bill when he brings it to the Senate floor in the lame duck session.

With the immigration language removed as an “excuse,” Frank said he’s hopeful that Republican senators who support repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will now join Democrats in supporting the overall defense bill to which repeal language will be attached. Among the GOP senators that repeal advocates hope will back the bill this time are Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snow, both from Maine.

In one of his first comments on a campaign ad by the conservative gay Republican group GOProud opposing him in his re-election race, Frank said the ad had little or no impact on the election.

He noted that his GOP opponent, Sean Bielat, opposes repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and is against “every other gay issue.”

“So I have no idea who these people are,” he said of the GOProud group. “And they have no influence whatsoever. The LGBT community in my district continues to be virtually unanimously supportive.”

The following is a transcript of the Blade’s interview with Rep. Frank, conducted on Nov. 8.

Rep. Barney Frank: I’ve been working today on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” In fact, I think it’s time for people to hold the Republicans’ feet to the fire because we didn’t get any votes from them. Last time around, they had the excuse – some of them – that they didn’t want to vote because [Senate Majority Leader] Harry [Reid] was going to put the DREAM Act in there on immigration. He now says he’s not going to put the DREAM Act in there. He’s going to put that in some other place. So now the question is why do Republicans — Sen. Snow, Sen. Collins and Sen. Brown — what reason would they have for voting against the whole bill?

And I spoke today to Pete Rouse [the acting White House Chief of Staff] and to Sen. Reid and Sen. [Richard] Durbin [D-Ill.] and Sen. [Carl] Levin [D-Mich.], and they all agree. They want to pass the defense bill with ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in it. They have two weeks. The question is whether Republicans filibuster it to death. But the Democrats are going to try very hard to do it. I think by the way, that’s why [Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates spoke out. I am sure, nobody’s told me this, but I’m sure the president said to Harry Reid, look, we’ve got to get this done. And Reid said fine, would it be helpful if I got some military support? And eventually Gates spoke out as he did.

Washington Blade: Your press person sent us a copy of your statement on that today.

Frank: I’ve spent — I made a lot of phone calls today. Plus, one fear was I saw, oh well, they’ll take ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ back out of the defense bill. It won’t pass in the House if they do that. I believe the speaker wouldn’t allow it to come up.

Blade: Do you mean next year?

Frank: No, [Rep. John] Boehner [R-Ohio, who will become Speaker of the House in January] is not who I was talking about. The thought was that the Republicans would say if they took ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ out of the [defense] bill this year in the lame duck session they would get it passed. And my answer is that’s not going to get them anywhere because we wouldn’t pass it in the House. We will not accept — there’s been some speculation about that — and the answer is no, the House—we’re going to tell the Senate that’s not going to work. And I don’t think the Senate is planning to do that. Harry is not planning to do that.

… ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal is in the defense authorization bill. What I just said was there was some suggestion that [Sen. John] McCain [R-Ariz.] would say strip that out and I’ll let you pass the defense bill. And the answer is that won’t work because the House won’t pass it. In other words, the Democratic leadership is thoroughly committed to getting ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repealed. The only question is — you know, Log Cabin says, oh, the Democrats couldn’t do it. Well they got us five Republican votes in the House … And no Republican votes in the Senate. The Democrats can’t do that all by ourselves without a single Republican supporter.

Blade: Did Harry Reid give an indication of when he might bring it up?

Frank: Right away — they only have two weeks. He’s committed to getting it done. He and I talked to the three — the Democratic leader, the Democratic whip, the Democratic committee chairman … They all agree they want to get it done. Unfortunately, if we have no Republican votes it can’t be done. So the question is will any Republicans and their supporters get us anything?

Blade: What’s the prospect of advancing LGBT-related bills next year, when the Republicans take charge of the House?

Frank: Next year there’s no chance of anything happening. There’s zero chance. We got five Republican votes out of 179 to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ The Republicans have become much more anti-gay in their voting patterns. There is zero chance of anything good happening with Republicans in control of the House.

Blade: Have you heard of anything about a Log Cabin supported gay-related tax reform bill? They won’t give us any details but the head of Log Cabin says that’s the first thing they’re going to work on next year and he thinks they might get Republican support.

Frank: If they’re suggesting that there will be Republican support for recognition of same-sex marriage that’s a lie and they know it. There’s no chance of that.

Blade: I asked them about that and he wouldn’t give me details but —

Frank: Yes, the Log Cabin club would like to make it easier for taxing – they would like to reduce taxes for rich people. I understand that. But there will be no help for gay people. Now for some of them, I think their income is skewed pretty high anyway. So they’ll feel good about it. But, no, there is zero chance that the Republicans will do anything that would recognize same-sex couples.

Blade: What about ENDA? He did say they would try to move ENDA.

Frank: There is zero chance of them doing anything on ENDA — zero.

Blade: Then the next step is whether the Republican majority or some Republicans will try to harm gay people such as attempting to repeal D.C.’s same-sex marriage law.

Frank: They can’t. That would take the president and the Senate … Do you think Barack Obama is going to sign a bill to repeal the D.C. marriage law? It won’t go through the Senate. There is no chance that could happen. None, zero.

Blade: So essentially it’s going to be a standstill?

Frank: It will be a status quo. The one thing we have a chance for is ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal in this lame duck session. And we can get that if we get any Republican cooperation. … On the other hand, they don’t have the votes to hurt us but we don’t have the votes to advance anything in the cause.

Blade: What’s your prediction on Nancy Pelosi’s decision to run for the Democratic leadership post as House Minority Leader?

Frank: Oh, she’ll win.

Blade: Your press spokesperson said you are supporting her.

Frank: I’m supporting her. I think she’ll win. … And from the LGBT standpoint, nobody’s going to get elected to any Democratic [leadership] office who isn’t 100 percent supportive.

Blade: In terms of your re-election campaign, did the ad attacking you from the conservative gay Republican group GOProud have any impact?

Frank: I don’t think anybody knew about it. Can you answer a question?

Blade: Yes.

Frank: What is it they are proud of? Does anybody know?

Blade: I guess they say they’re proud of being Republicans.

Frank: You guess? My [opponent, Republican Sean Bielat] was against repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ He did not take a single pro-gay position.

Blade: Their ad said they supported him because you were ‘catty.’

Frank: It means that these are people who have no interest in advancing gay causes, and I have no idea what it means. He’s a guy who’s against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal, against every other gay issue and ran an ad in the YouTube, which I never saw, which two newspaper editorials condemned as anti-gay — two separate newspapers have condemned it as anti-gay. So I have no idea who these people are. And they have no influence whatsoever. The LGBT community in my district continues to be virtually unanimously supportive.

Blade: How do you feel about your role on the House Financial Services Committee under Republican leadership? [Frank will lose his position as chair of the highly influential committee in the GOP-controlled House in January.]

Frank: I believe we will be able to defend the financial regulation reform. Of all the issues, that was the one where we are on the most popular side. If they try to undo the consumer protection or other stuff, we’ll be able to block them.

Blade: And are you going to serve as the ranking minority member on the committee?

Frank: Yes.

Blade: Will the Democrats be reshuffling committee chairs in the new Congress?

Frank: Well everybody that’s returning will stay. Obviously there are some vacancies.

Blade: Concerning the health care reform law, do you think that will stay intact?

Frank: They can’t change it legislatively. They may try to un-fund it. That will be what they will try to do. Thank you.

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Matthew

    November 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    What bills did the Democrats advance for us when they controlled Congress for the past two years with overwhelming majorities? The status quo was alive and well for the past two years on Frank’s watch. He’s talking as if something has changed. They did nothing!!!

  2. Brendan

    November 9, 2010 at 2:33 am

    Actually they passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the Defense Authorization Act in 2009. While I wish they acted on the Employment Non Discrimination Act, don ‘t say they didn’t do anything, thats an extreme exaggeration

  3. Boomer

    November 9, 2010 at 10:32 am

    They passed the hate crimes bill which was the generally recognized first in a list of priorities for the LGBT community and has pushed for the repeal of DADT, both vociferously opposed by Republicans. Obama also ended the HIV travel ban and extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. But I suppose those things don’t matter and we should just let the people who will do NOTHING for us run the show for a few years. Hey, it’s only 8 or 10 years of Republican control of Congress thanks to Republican-led redistricting in state houses! No big deal!

    • libhomo

      November 9, 2010 at 7:48 pm

      The hate crimes bill, though watered down, was important. However, ENDA is the highest legislative priority of the queer community. ENDA is more important, in terms of its effect on the lives of queers, than all the other bills combined.

    • Gemma Seymour

      November 11, 2010 at 8:00 pm

      The hate crimes bill might be your first priority, it might even be the first priority of “Gay, Inc.”, but as a trans woman of color, *my* first legislative priority is a trans-inclusive ENDA. I’m not really that concerned about what happens after I’m dead, because I’m too busy trying to scrape together enough money to pay my rent, keep the lights on, and stay warm and fed. I need a job, and some protection from being fired from it, not gay marriage, not DADT, not increased hate crimes punishments.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for gay marriage, etc., but they are far from priorities. Ever hear of Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs? It’s pretty ironic that trans people tend to reach the top of the hierarchy (self-actualization), only to have society fling us right back to the bottom in search of basic survival.

  4. Peter the saint

    November 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Gates – Boehner – Obama – Scalia – McCain – Chaffetz: Like “W” just said about Iraq: he didn’t WANT to go to war, but he HAD TO! Riiiiight… You all say “I don’t WANT to treat you differently. But I HAVE TO.” Riiiiight… just like Bush: complete bullpucky. MY dictionary ties “bigotry” with religion, intimately together in one tight little knot. Look it up!

    So whether it’s marriage, DADT or jobs/ENDA… the sooner you all quit making plans about how/where/when to treat us differently – and urging others to do so – the better off everyone will be. Kumbaya :D

  5. Peter Rosenstein

    November 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Good interview. I and many others, including Barney Frank I am sure, would like to be proven wrong on whether or not the Republicans will move any LGBT issues forward in the Congress. I am willing to applaud and give them credit when and if they do. I continue to hope that the Log Cabin Republicans will have a postitive influence. Maybe they can start by getting Snowe and Collins to vote yes on repealing DADT. That would be a huge coup for LCR.

    • William P. Homans

      November 9, 2010 at 8:55 pm

      The Log Cabin Republicans are traitors to the LGBT community. They are catspaws for the Republican Party, whose interest is overwhelmingly antigay. The bringing to the floor first of DADT Repeal was a brilliant, though devilish, piece of Republican political calculation. Republicans knew that this particular piece of gay-friendly legislation would have the hardest time passing– as it happened, it never even achieved cloture– of any of the gay civil rights bills that could have been introduced, because unlike the American people, whom gay orgs tout as being supportive of gay soldiers, the military itself– regardless of the sincere effort of Adm. Mike Mullen– remains highly resistant to openly gay soldiers, and Senators listen to generals and admirals before they listen to participants in Gay Pride parades.

      Comprehensive European-style civil-unions legislation, that would include anti-employment discrimination, anti-housing discrimination planks, the right to bequeath and ingerit to and from same-sex partners, the federal right to put one’s same sex partner under one’s health insurance plan, and more, would have passed the Senate. Now, as I said when this disastrous DADT-of any of the players in this depressing tableau.Repeal defeat occurred, and Barney Frank has just confirmed, nothing at all will pass. He must at least say the lame-duck Senate will repeal DADT, but he says it with little sound of enthusiasm.

      And if gays get completely in a mood to cut their …. off to spite their face and vote for a Republican against Obama in 2012, then there will be no GLBT-friendly legislation for the rest of the decade.

      I hold the Log Cabin Republicans most repsonsible for the results of this distressing tableau. They were the ones who brought those 6 Republican servicepeople with good service records up to the White House in that demonstration, which induced the Democratic leadership, lacking such a high-profile demo by people who just wanted to live together with the social benefits of straight people, to allow this DADT Repeal to come to the floor. Republicans, as I said, knew that LGBT people would get one bite at the legislative pie during the first two years of the Obama Administration, and that this was the easiest one for them to lose. Brilliant, I say, and utterly free of legal risk, unlike most Republican dirty tricks we have watched in my 40 years back from Vietnam. Mr. Rove could not possibly have done better.

      The LCRs are REPUBLICANS FIRST, and then– maybe– gay somewhere down the line. On their website there is a link supposedly to a list of candidates they were going to endorse on September 15. Guess what? No list. And one can see why, if the list was anything like Congressman-elect Murray, a retired colonel and anti-gay rights all the way. Former Capt. Clark Cooper may have gotten out without a blemish on his service record, but he and his friends have forever vacated any claim they have to being GAY. Now all they can say– if they even are– is that they are homosexuals.

      I am mildly surprised that more prominent LGBTs have not called the LCRs on their treason. But on the other hand, perhaps gays just are unable to believe that any members of their community would act so directly in their own self-interest. They traded civil-unions legislation which would have ensured civil rights for 15 million people, assuming a GLBT population of 5% in America, for legislation which MIGHT have assured ONE RIGHT for less than 100,000 (assuming 5 times as many GLBTs have served or are serving in the military in the 17 years since DADT was enacted, and adding the 13,000 gay discharges . then, plus maybe that many naive twinks who might have enlisted but for the deterrent effect of an anti-gay military as have been discharged. Let’s say another 13,000). 91,000 goes into 15 million 165 times. This DADT-Repeal defeat hurt everybody– it was a terminal blow for gay rights at least during this administration, But it wasn’t even DESIGNED to help everybody. It was, in fact, a masterful, cynical piece of political machination that was sinceCALCULATED TO FAIL.

      And one other thing, you just watch: my political discussion forum’s resident Log Cabin Republican (I blush to admit that http://www.hypercrites.com has one as a regular liar, er, poster) is going to show up here and attempt to debunk me with emotion and right-wing talking points. A hateful little man from Washington. A little not-far-past-twink-age Republican agent provocateur. Like all the LCRs, conflicted to the nitty max!

      I call on gays to police their own civil rights movement, and remove– forcibly, if necessary– the hands of the Log Cabin Republicans from the levers of power in our nation’s capital! I regret al the kids getting bullied these days, but it is grown people– the LCRs and their Republican handlers– who are busy trying to recreate a homophobic environment in which more kids will take their lives because bullies will be empowered. If anyone needs to get bullied, it is the Log Cabin Republicans, and by gays and lesbians themselves.

  6. Bill

    November 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Great interview of a true soldier in LGBT politics. While quite gruff around the edges, he is an important figure in Congress. Obama totally blew the supermajorities of the last two years. What he did was tinkering around the edges, and I don’t give him any credit for hate crimes legislation – that had been ten years in the making. The next two years will be about the GOP figuring out who big business wants as the next president and then those businesses will LEGALLY bankroll that campaign. We could have had our agenda passed by now. But what we got was an unskilled president who is decidedly unsupportive.

  7. Pete Giaquinto

    November 9, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    “Obama also extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees”

    This claim is pure unadulterated Bullshit! To say he extended benefits to same sex partners of federal employees is a JOKE. Table scraps, pure BS. Nothing the least bit meaningful. Obama and his democratic cronies are as bad if not worse than the republicans. We know damn well not to expect equal treatment from repubs, while the dems promise us change in exchange for our money support and votes, only to throw us under the bus once they get in. Bullshit!

  8. Tim

    November 9, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    The only significant piece of legislation the Democrats took the time to pass was the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. Clearly, they could have passed a lot more than that if they had wanted to however, and that is what is so frustrating. Now the clock is ticking for this Congress and as Frank so correctly pointed out, nothing will be done in the next Congress. Democrats must act now to pass the two bills that can actually be passed during the lame-duck session; namely the Democrats in the senate must Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Democrats in the House & Senate must give the Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligations Act, (which has cleared committees in both chambers) a vote on the floor of both chambers and make it law. As it stands, the Dems are already making excuses about not being able to bring DADT back up for a vote, and although DPBO passed out of committee in both chambers ten months ago and has been waiting to be called for a floor vote, it will probably be allowed to die without even getting a vote in the House or Senate. This is the kind of thing that convinces me that Obama and the Democratic leadership don’t care about advancing our issues. As for the GOP, no surprises there, we know they are always against us.

  9. Rick Rosendall

    November 9, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Pete Giaquinto wrote, “Obama and his democratic cronies are as bad if not worse than the republicans.” This is demonstrably false. The last time I checked, dozens of Dems had perfect 100 scorecards from the Human Rights Campaign, but no Republicans did (I believe there was one previously, but he got defeated). Look, the Dems have been lame, and it is infuriating, but that’s just it–the true and accurate complaint is bad enough. We don’t have to exaggerate. The Hate Crimes Act is not enough, but it is not nothing. BTW, Bill, all of our top legislative items have been pending for years–so does that mean that you wouldn’t give Obama and the Dems credit if they all passed tomorrow? Let’s give credit and criticism where due. For all their faults, the Dems have a far better record on gay issues than Republicans. And before you react, please note that I did not just beatify them. I said they were lame. But saying they’re no better than the Republicans is false and self-defeating. If Jason Chaffetz pushes a bill to overturn D.C.’s marriage equality law, and gets his caucus to back him, will you still say that there’s no difference between the parties? BTW, Peter Rosenstein, if enough Republicans support DADT repeal to make that happen, it won’t just be to LCR’s credit–lots of people have been working on that.

  10. Tom

    November 9, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    I am SO tired of all of Barney’s attempts to cover for the lack of significant action by the Democrats on LGBT equality legislation by pointing his finger at the other side. That really doesn’t cut it any more, sir.

  11. Matthew

    November 9, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Excuse my extreme exaggeration! They passed a hate crimes law. What was not passed was DADT repeal, ENDA, and the repeal of DOMA. Basically, all of the gay community’s major priorities. I guess that is a major accomplishment for all the Obama and Democratic party apologists who read and comment on this blog though. Gays are still kicked out of the military (thanks to Obama that appealed the ruling that would have ended DADT!), still getting fired from their jobs, and legally married gay couples are having their spouses deported because they have no immigration rights. If you are LGBT and not DISGUSTED with our president and his party then you apparently are not paying attention. I am sick and tired of the excuses. One more day of our community being treated second class is an outrage and should have been addressed immediately by the party that had not problem taking our money and votes. Yes, the Repubs are worse but they never promised me anything and I didn’t give them my time, money, and vote for the past decade.

  12. Amber Thompson

    November 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

    The only true failure, is not trying.

  13. Scott in Baltimore

    November 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Barney Frank is a joke. As others have noted, the Democrats with an overwhelming majority in the House, a filibuster proof majority in the Senate and the Presidency have done NOTHING. As a gay man, I do not want a hate crimes law – just enforce the laws on the books, and, if you think it is so important, please tell me how many times this law has been used (answer: never). And the overtunring of the HIV travel ban happened under Bush. Remember also that the President is against gay marriage (while Dick Cheney is in favor). DADT could have been repealed anytime during the last 2 years but Obama chose not spend ANY capital on it. Face it – Obama played a lot of gays for suckers and stll does. And, by the way, since when shouuld the HRC determine gay priorities? They do not speak for me.

  14. ENDA My Rope

    November 11, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    The Democrats still have the votes in the lame-duck Congress to pass ENDA, and they should do it. The idea of having a Federal statute that provides workplace protections for LGBT workers is supported by over 75 percent of the American people. This bill has been introduced in every Congress since the early 1970s. The election is now in the rearview mirror, and it is an easy vote for all Democrats. If Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi can’t accomplish this, they should be ousted from their Democratic leadership positions in the House.

  15. EL Dorado

    November 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Yes, Barney, we know that NO pro-gay legislation can pass with a GOP majority in Congress (or President in the White House). How can it when the party has a specific platform that opposes anything that benefits the welfare of gay Americans! The party is a pocket of christian conservatives. And GoProud (What is there to be proud of) is a disgrace….nothing more than a lap dog to the GOP leadership wagging its tail whenever they get an iota of recognition from the GOP leadershiip in exhange for being tokens they can point to when necessary to claim they are compassionate conservatives! GoProud are losers selling out the gay community for a tax cut while enjoying the benefits earned by the hard fought struggles of REAL gay activists!

    As for the Dems and Pelosi, it was a miracle they managed to pass the Hate Crimes Act. But soon after, they failed us by giving us constant excuses and lip service as to why our ENDA legislation could not be voted upon. Pelosi squandered all last year on Healthcare and refused to allow ENDA a vote and the gay leadership just sat their like idiots and accepted this! It was clear by the start of this year that the Dems would lose their majority in Congress, yet no action was taken on ENDA. to try and pass it while it was still possible…excuses included that the votes weren’t there or ENDA could get hostile amendments attached. Like we won’t face that all the time. Pelosi held ENDA hostage not allowing a vote on it….NO DIFFERENT THAN A GOP MAJORITY THAT WON’T ALLOW IT OUT OF COMMITTEE FOR A FAIR UP AND DONE VOTE!

    But it just wasn’t the Dems alone that failed us. The gay leadership also screwed things up big time! Instead of focusing on one major piece of legislation at a time like ENDA as they did in the case of Hate Crimes, they introduced too much pro gay legislation at once which ended up competing with each other resulting in Pelosi saying that both ENDA and Ending DADT could not be voted upon at the same time….one bill at a time. As a result, we ended up with the misguided priority being ending DADT when the obvious priority had to be ENDA! Only a fraction of us work for the US military stupid! Most of our community would have benefited from ENDA as it would have protected us in ALL 50 states! The gay leaderships botched it…AGAIN!

    I’m beginning to think that gay organizations like HRC have no vested interest in passing all our legislation…..why would they? If they did, they would be obsolete and lose funding from people supporting them. As such, the longer they can drag things out, the better to keep working until retirement. Face it the only major legislation we have managed to pass on the federal level since Stone Wall has been Hate Crimes.

    Look what the are doing now with the lame duck session, squandering it again by focusing on yet another vote on Ending DADT! What happened to giving ENDA a chance for a vote at all? That was the plan, get a vote on DADT then ENDA gets a chance. But somehow you think the result is going to be different a month later by voting on it again. The same GOP members that voted against the bill before will do it again STUPID. Nothing will change. Waiting on this Pentagon Report ending the policy is a smoke-screen allowing the GOP cover and excuses when they know that in the end they will ignore the report when it concludes the policy can be ended and do nothing.

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National

Does a potential overturn of Roe imperil LGBTQ rights?

Some fear that Obergefell marriage decision could fall

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Protests outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1. (Photo by Cathy Renna)

The oral arguments before the justices of the United States Supreme Court had barely ended in the case brought by the state of Mississippi defending its law banning abortion after 15 weeks, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, when alarms were set off in legal circles as some argued that Obergefell v. Hodges — the same-sex marriage decision — would be in danger should the high court rule to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler, appearing on NPR’s ‘Heard on All Things Considered,’ told host Mary Louise Kelly that there was a basis for concern over whether the court would actually overrule its precedents in other cases based on the questions and statements raised during the hearing by the conservative members of the court.

Asked by Kelly if she saw a legal door opening Ziegler affirmed that she did. Kelly then asked her, “Them taking up cases to do with that. What about same-sex marriage?”

Ziegler answered, “Yeah, same-sex marriage is definitely a candidate. Justices Alito and Thomas have in passing mentioned in dicta that they think it might be worth revisiting Obergefell v. Hodges – the same-sex marriage decision.

“And I think it’s fair to say that in the sort of panoply of culture war issues, that rights for same-sex couples and sexual orientation are still among the most contested, even though certainly same-sex marriage is more subtle than it was and than abortion was.

“I think that certainly the sort of balance between LGBTIQ rights and religious liberty writ large is a very much alive issue, and I think some states may try to test the boundaries with Obergefell, particularly knowing that they have a few justices potentially willing to go there with them.”

As almost if to underscore the point raised by Ziegler during the hearing, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor pointed out that the high court has taken and “discerned” certain rights in cases from the Constitution.

Along with abortion, the court has “recognized them in terms of the religion parents will teach their children. We’ve recognized it in their ability to educate at home if they choose,” Sotomayor said. “We have recognized that sense of privacy in people’s choices about whether to use contraception or not. We’ve recognized it in their right to choose who they’re going to marry.”

In following up the cases cited by Justice Sotomayor, Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Mississippi Solicitor General Scott Stewart, who was defending the state’s abortion law, whether a decision in his favor would affect the legal precedents in those cases cited by Justice Sotomayor.

In his answer to Justice Barrett, the state’s Solicitor General said cases involving contraception, same-sex marriage and sodomy wouldn’t be called into question because they involve “clear rules that have engendered strong reliance interests and that have not produced negative consequences or all the many other negative stare decisis considerations we pointed out.”

However, Lambda Legal Chief Strategy Officer and Legal Director, Sharon McGowan had a different take and interpreted remarks by Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh to mean that the decisions in Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized private sexual intimacy between same-sex couples, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down remaining bans on the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, would actually justify overturning Roe v. Wade.

In a publicly released media statement McGowan noted: “During today’s argument, Justice Kavanaugh suggested that two key Supreme Court decisions protecting LGBTQ civil rights—Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell v. Hodges—support overruling Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

‘To that we say, NOT IN OUR NAME. LGBTQ people need abortions. Just as important, those landmark LGBTQ decisions EXPANDED individual liberty, not the opposite. They reflected the growing societal understanding of our common humanity and equality under law.

“Just as the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education rejected the lie of ‘separate but equal,’ the Supreme Court’s decisions in Lawrence and Obergefell appropriately overruled precedent where it was clear that, as was true with regard to race, our ancestors failed properly to acknowledge that gender and sexual orientation must not be barriers to our ability to live, love, and thrive free of governmental oppression. … 

“These landmark LGBTQ cases, which Lambda Legal litigated and won, and on which we rely today to protect our community’s civil rights, were built directly on the foundation of Casey and Roe. Our interests in equal dignity, autonomy, and liberty are shared, intertwined, and fundamental.” 

On Sunday, the Blade spoke with Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national LGBTQ+ legal organization that represented three same-sex couples from Tennessee, whose case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court along with Obergefell and two other cases.

Minter is urging caution in how people interpret the court arguments and remarks made by the justices.

“We should be cautious about taking the bait from anti-LGBTQ groups who falsely argue that if the Supreme Court reverses or undermines Roe v. Wade, they are likely to reverse or undermine Obergefell or Lawrence. In fact, that is highly unlikely, as the argument in Dobbs itself showed,” he said.

“The only reason Justice Kavanaugh mentioned Obergefell and Lawrence, along with Brown v. Board of Education, was to cite them as examples of cases in which the Supreme Court clearly did the right thing. All of those decisions rely at least as strongly on equal protection as on fundamental rights, and even this extremely conservative Supreme Court has not questioned the foundational role of equal protection in our nation’s constitutional law,” Minter stressed.

During an interview with Bloomberg magazine, David Cortman, of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based anti-LGBTQ legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an extremist hate group, said “two things in particular distinguish abortion from those other privacy rights: the right to life and the states’ interest in protecting a child.”

Cortman, whose group urged the justices to allow states to ban same-sex marriages, said those other rights may be just as wrong as the right to an abortion. “But the fundamental interest in life that’s at issue in abortion means those other rights are probably not in any real danger of being overturned.”

But Cortman is of the opinion that there is little impetus among the court’s conservatives to take up challenges to those cases.

However, the fact that the six to three makeup of the high court with a conservative majority has progressives clamoring for the public to pay closer attention and be more proactively engaged.

Kierra Johnson, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, in an emailed statement to the Blade underscored those concerns:

“Reports and analysis coming out of Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are extremely disturbing and represent a threat to our individual constitutional rights to privacy and autonomy. There is no ‘middle ground’ on what the Constitution guarantees and what was decided decades ago with the Roe v Wade decision. 

“This is about liberty, equality, and the rule of law, not the political or partisan views of those sitting on the bench. The unprecedented decision to remove a constitutional right recognized by the Supreme Court 50 years ago would set back civil rights by decades. ….

“Abortion access is essential, and a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. Bans on abortion are deeply racist and profoundly sexist – the harshest impacts fall on Black and Brown women and pregnant people and on our families and communities.

“If you think this decision will not affect you, think again: a wrong decision by the Supreme Court means you, too, will lose your bodily autonomy, your ability to own your own personal and community power. This is not just about abortion; it is about controlling bodies based on someone else determining your worthiness. This is a racial justice issue. This is a women’s issue. It is an LGBTQ issue. It is a civil rights issue. These are our fundamental rights that are at stake.”

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Minnesota

Minnesota middle school principal ousted for displaying Pride flag

Critics ramped up attacks on the career educator- some compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students

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Screenshot via Marshall Public Schools, YouTube Channel

MARSHALL, Mn. — A former middle school principal in Minnesota who lost her job after displaying a Pride flag alleges in a federal lawsuit that the school system retaliated against her for supporting LGBTQ+ students.

Mary Kay Thomas filed the complaint against Marshall Public Schools in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota Tuesday after anti-LGBTQ+ middle school staff, parents, students and local clergy began efforts to remove the Pride flag that she put up in her middle school’s cafeteria in 2020 as a part of an inclusiveness effort.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas has been a teacher and principal for more than three decades with a long track record of success. She held the principal position at Marshall Middle School for 15 years, receiving contract renewals, pay raises and praise for her performance.

“But when Thomas decided to display an LGBTQ Pride Flag in the school cafeteria in early 2020, everything changed,” reads the complaint. 

Thomas refused to take down the Pride flag as critics ramped up attacks on the career educator. The lawsuit alleges that some even compared her to the Devil after publicly associating with LGBTQ+ people and students. 

“Sadly, the Marshall School District has sided with these critics,” her lawyers wrote. 

What followed was an “escalating series of adverse actions” taken by the Marshall School District, said the lawsuit. She claims that the school targeted her by threatening her employment, conducting a “bad-faith” investigation, putting her on indefinite involuntary leave, suspending her without pay and putting a notice of deficiency in her personnel file. 

The complaint says that the deficiencies were “false, distorted, and/or related to Thomas’s association with members of the LGBTQ community.”

Thomas also claims that the District attempted to get her to quit by removing her as principal and assigning her to a “demeaning ‘special projects’ position.”

At one point, Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams, who is named as a defendant in the case, told Thomas he could “make this all go away” if she stepped down, according to the complaint. 

The school removed the Pride flag in August 2021 after settling a lawsuit brought by residents who opposed it. 

The Blade reached out to Williams for comment but did not receive a response. However, according to the Marshall Independent, Williams did release a statement on the matter. 

“Marshall Public Schools is committed to the education of every child and has strong policies and practices in place against discrimination, against both students and staff members. The school district is committed to creating a respectful, inclusive, and safe learning and working environment for students, staff and our families,” Williams said. “While the school cannot comment about the specific allegations made in the complaint, the school district strongly denies any allegation of discriminatory conduct. The school will vigorously defend itself against these allegations.”

In addition, Thomas alleges that she resisted unwanted sexual advancements from school board member Bill Swope. She claims she told Williams about the sexual harassment.

As of Thursday, the school has not filed a response, and no hearing has been scheduled yet. 

Thomas is seeking a jury trial, damages and reinstatement as principal of Marshall Middle School.

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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