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Judge’s leniency justifies her removal

Williams reduced sentence for woman convicted of slashing gay man

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Yvonne Williams, gay news, Washington Blade
Yvonne Williams, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams (Image courtesy YouTube)

D.C. Superior Court Judge Yvonne Williams was quoted in the Blade as saying, “She likes to be known for ‘telling it like it is.’” Williams recently reduced the sentence of one perpetrator of a hate crime and gave the other a short prison sentence. Police and prosecutors believe the sentence is much too lenient and I agree with them.

As covered in the Blade, according to prosecutors, Christina Lucas and her brother Christopher showed no remorse after a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted them on May 8 of aggravated assault while armed and designated the incident as an anti-gay hate crime. Witnesses testified that the siblings led a group of others in an attack on the victim in Northwest, punching and stomping him multiple times after knocking him to the ground. According to testimony, Christina Lucas slashed the victim’s face with a sharp object, causing a permanent facial scar after she called him a “faggot motherfucker.”

Williams reduced her sentence of Christina, a lesbian, to six months from one year. She sentenced Christopher to one year in prison.

Upon hearing of the sentence Mayor Bowser said, “When someone is attacked because of who they are, it is a hate crime. The District will seek out those who perpetrate hate crimes and we call upon the justice system to hold them accountable to the full extent of the law.” I think more is needed and it is incumbent on the mayor to speak out on this particular case and to hold this judge up to public scrutiny for apparently saying to the community there is such a thing as a “hate crime lite.”

The reasoning behind this judge’s decision to lessen the sentence is so egregious that she should be removed from the bench. Not only were her comments on this case and hate crimes in general outrageous but she went on to say how she arrived at the original sentence.

“I was rushed because I had a jury waiting.” Would this not lead us to question all of her sentences and her judgment? How many other sentences has she gotten wrong? The D.C. Superior Court is a busy place but we must expect judges to take the time they need when sentencing convicted criminals.

This was an interesting case. A juror on the initial grand jury that indicted this brother and sister said they had to force the U.S. Attorney to ask for a hate crime indictment because she thought it would make the case harder to win. The grand jury handed down the hate crime indictment and a jury convicted.

Reducing the original sentence was so unusual the judge decided to explain why she did it. In doing so she said she decides on the severity of a hate crime based on the seriousness of the injuries suffered by the victim. The judge said since the victim wasn’t left in a wheelchair or killed she thought it wasn’t that bad a crime. She said, “there are different levels of hate crimes” and actually went on to talk about the fact that one of the siblings who committed the crime said she was gay. She said, “So do I have concerns with Ms. Lucas going forward, that she’s going to be terrorizing the community and going after gay people? No I don’t have that concern.” Would she have thought this before these two were convicted of terrorizing and slashing the face of their victim?

What Judge Williams is saying to the community is that hate crimes are OK if you don’t put the victim in a wheelchair or kill them. Just cut them with a knife, or knock them to the ground, and we won’t give you much punishment. In essence, a hate crime “lite” is OK.

In her rambling explanation, she talked about Matthew Shepard but couldn’t remember his name; she asked if a black-on-black hate crime could exist if one African American used the ‘N’ word against the other.

Judge Williams recently sentenced a 20-year-old D.C. man accused of assaulting and robbing another man before pushing him onto the Metro tracks at the Navy Yard station because he believed the victim was gay to only one year in jail. In that case, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office told the Washington Blade, “We did consider a hate crime enhancement and intended to pursue it until the defendant quickly took responsibility for his actions and pled guilty.”

Each person and politician, especially the mayor and Council members, must take a hard stand against hate crimes. Convicted perpetrators must be punished to the full extent of the law. There is no such thing as a ‘hate crime lite.’ While we don’t control the courts or the U.S. Attorney’s Office we can use public opinion to demand they act in these cases and take each and every one seriously. The reason for enhanced punishment for those committing a hate crime is not only to punish them but it sends a message to the community that we will not tolerate hate.

All citizens deserve to feel safe in their homes and on the streets as they go about their daily lives.

 

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. studd55

    July 29, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    I found this judge’s video very creepy. She explains her mother grew up “marginalized” and so her mother empowered others who have been marginalized and didn’t have a voice. The judge says that she has went a different path than her mother.

    Apparently so.

    The judge has chosen a path of marginalizing those that are marginalized and don’t have a voice.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh1QwxGjtmM

  2. Brian's Ions

    July 30, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Thanks, Peter. It bears repeating…

    “Each person and politician, especially the mayor and Council members, must take a hard stand against hate crimes. Convicted perpetrators must be punished to the full extent of the law. There is no such thing as a ‘hate crime lite.’ While we don’t control the courts or the U.S. Attorney’s Office we can use public opinion to demand they act in these cases and take each and every one seriously. The reason for enhanced punishment for those committing a hate crime is not only to punish them but it sends a message to the community that we will not tolerate hate.”
    — Peter Rosenstein, 29 July 2015

    Mayor Bowser and Chief Lanier should take a page from Philadelphia Mayor Nutter’s and Commissioner Ramsey’s public stance against anti-LGBT hate crimes there.

    And our leaders know how to do this. Indeed, it was Chief Lanier who educated me on the subject of Court Watch-like Activism and Community Impact Statements, btw– quite some years ago now.

    LGBTs are waiting for DC’s mayor and our police chief to embrace and take the moral high ground against hate crimes violence– forthrightly, without hesitation.

    Why not RE-empower GLLU. why not truly welcome DC’s newcomers each year to its Dupont Station. Why not have a GLLU ‘party’ with a serious public safety conversation– every year on the Circle?

    DC’s LGBTQ residents, friends and loved ones are waiting. And LGBTQ tourists across America and all over the world are waiting as well– to hear and see credible assurance from our mayor and our police chief that THEY are welcome and safe in this nation’s capital city.

    The truth is there is not a thing about Judge Williams’ mistaken understanding of hate crimes’ terrorizing, rippling impacts that more interaction with DC’s LGBTQ people could not help but make better.

  3. PT

    July 31, 2015 at 10:09 am

    She’s an embarrassment to the bench. And although you didn’t note it, she indicated the Shepard case was distinguishable as a hate crime because Matthew Shepard didn’t know his attackers, which we all know simply is inaccurate.

    She needs to go. Now.

    • Brian's Ions

      July 31, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      Yep. It’s pretty hard to wish away bias and bigotry as apparent as that.
      **
      …she indicated the Shepard case was distinguishable as a hate crime because Matthew Shepard didn’t know his attackers,

      **

  4. Stephen Clark

    July 31, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    I agree with Peter on this one. She is unfit to serve. Three strikes and she should be out.

    Her explanation is so absurd, in fact, that it sounds like a pretext. I suspect that what is really behind her leniency is the belief that a poor black kid should not be given a lengthy sentence for “merely” attacking a “privileged” homosexual. She would not be the first person of color in local legal circles whom I’ve heard complain about gay-inclusive hate crimes laws as part of the problem of excessive incarceration of young black men. The attitude, however, bizarrely supposes that legions of young black men are being given lengthy sentences for anti-gay hate crimes. As best I can tell, the local prosecutors do not believe anyone should ever be prosecuted for an anti-gay hate crime. I suspect what we have here is a case of “Oppression Olympics” run amok. Or it may simply be that she’s anti-gay and devalues gay lives.

    • Brian's Ions

      July 31, 2015 at 6:57 pm

      Wow. That’s interesting. Thanks.
      I had to look this up, so as to maybe save others time…

      Oppression Olympics is a term used when two or more groups compete to prove themselves more oppressed than each other. In geek feminist circles, contestants may include:

      – Women
      – People of color
      – People with disabilities
      – LGBTQ people
      – Members of minority language groups
      – Residents of non-Western countries, or people from non-North American countries
      – People who were unpopular in high school

      Competing in the Oppression Olympics attaches something like a moral dimension to oppression, in which the most oppressed are worthier.

      People who participate in Oppression Olympics tend to ignore the fact that it’s possible for multiple groups to be oppressed, and necessary to address all those problems, without choosing a single group to get all the anti-oppression activism.

      —geekfeminism.wikia[dot]com

      ————
      Whatever the case, we’ve got to find a way to convey to judges the harm continued to whole groups of people when hate crimes are devalued and their perpetrators are given slaps on the wrist.
      The mayor’s office (as Gray proposed) should be assisting us in connecting with USAO and the courts to provide impact statements.

  5. I'm Just Sayin

    August 1, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Yes she needs to go. So, which DC gay rights organization is going to lead the efforts and file a complaint with the Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure? DC Bar Association?

    • Brian's Ions

      August 3, 2015 at 9:15 am

      It’s a great question, IJ.

      Indeed, it’s probably one of the most important questions we ought to ask. That’s in addition to…

      Who and what organizations in DC really *control* local LGBTQ public safety activism in DC?

      In years past, GLOV was the relatively independent and premier advocacy group for LGBTQ public safety.

      But it looks like GLOV has lost its prior independent focus — and largely its effectiveness. If you go to GLOV’s ‘news’ page, it’s dominated by DC Center promotional fundraising ads, not news.

      There’s not a word of this judge’s apparent judicial bias. Nor the brutal attack on a gay man on July 19th off of V Street near Town and Nellie’s, nor the stabbing death on Metro July 4th — who was reportedly an LGBT-rights advocate while he was at AU.

      Inexplicably, GLOV took a “summer hiatus” from monthly meetings during DC’s busiest season for hate crimes.

      We ought to ask who suggested that?

      Someone at GLOV? The DC Center? Or was it really the mayor’s MPD pulling the control strings? Perhaps Chief Lanier’s friends at DC’s ADL?

      GLOV’s prior independence may have been lost to (1) an ill-advised dependence on a dishonest, foot-dragging MPD, and (2) dependence on The DC Center for GLOV’s website, GLOV’s information flow for advocacy/ education, GLOV’s basic overhead (meeting space, phone, email?, whatever).

      GLOV may owe its socks or otherwise be beholden to The DC Center for all we know.

      Moreover, The DC Center may be tied and/or beholden to DC’s ADL for financial backing and donors.

      Of course, folks may recall the DCTC’s Jason Terry uncovered ADL director’s close friendship with MPD Chief Cathy Lanier– which Chief Lanier readily acknowledged at the time.

      Of course, Chief Lanier is the same police chief who has been trying to destroy MPD’s GLLU (Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit) for the past 9 years– in the opinion of a number of DC LGBTQs.

      So counting on GLOV’s current iteration to lead such an effort is likely wishful thinking.

      DCTC and Rainbow Response are terrific advocacy groups. But each is obviously more narrowly focused– and represent subsets (very effective subsets, too) of DC LGBTQ public safety advocacy activists.

      That leaves DC’s oldest and best LGBTQ civil rights organization.

      GLAA has long had an honest and disciplined focus on policy and legislative activism. And for many decades that disciplined focus obviously served all of us well.

      But complaining to the courts — and even assisting in the preparation of Community Impact Statements might be a new but very ‘good fit’ mission for GLAA– esp. as so many of its members are lawyers or have legislative expertise.

      I hope the powers that be at GLLA will give it some careful consideration. Like no other group, GLAA has the expertise, ability and credibility to be an effective watchdog of the courts. And likewise for enforcement of DC’s hate crimes law– a law which GLLA wrote so many years ago (1989).

  6. Lamia

    August 2, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I strongly agree with the general thrust of this article, Peter, but I take issue with this:

    The reason for enhanced punishment for those committing a hate crime is not only to punish them but it sends a message to the community that we will not tolerate hate.

    All citizens deserve to feel safe in their homes and on the streets as they go about their daily lives.

    Yes, ‘all citizens’. I do not agree with having a separate class of ‘hate crime’. It should make no difference that the victim was male or female, gay or straight, black or white, young or old. I am certainly in favour of tracking crimes against members of minority groups, and of campaigns against such attacks, but in terms of sentencing, all victims should be treated as equal.

    The real disgrace in this case, as in so many cases of violence, is simply the derisory sentence and the judge’s sympathy for the attackers. It would be disgusting whoever the victim was.

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Blogging my first overseas vacation since COVID

Chronicling life aboard Celebrity APEX

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I will be blogging a number of times during my two-week transatlantic cruise and sharing my thoughts and experiences. 

The first thing I found is boarding during a pandemic is a little different. People were given specific boarding times yet most arrived at the port when it was convenient for them as many had early check-out times from their hotel or Airbnb in Barcelona. Celebrity didn’t turn anyone away. There was no Wi-fi at the entrance to the terminal so things got a little complicated as many had the information needed on their iPhone Celebrity app. It worked out and when you got inside to the counter they shared a Wi-fi connection. 

I knew in advance from a Facebook connection, some childhood friends whom I hadn’t seen in 21 years were going to be onboard. We ended up arriving at the terminal at the same time and caught up for the next hour and a half as we progressed through the boarding process. We all had to take a Covid test and only those with negative results could board. Of the approximately 1,300 people boarding, less than half the possible number for a full ship, I didn’t hear of anyone getting a positive result. 

When my negative result came back I was allowed to board and went to find my stateroom on deck 11. The key was at the door with all my information on it. Celebrity was doing everything to limit crew-to-passenger contact. We were asked to keep masks on in all indoor spaces except when eating or drinking, which on a cruise is often, and the crew are all wearing masks. Luggage was delivered to the door. 

Shortly after entering my beautiful stateroom there was a knock at the door and my stateroom attendant, Lenie, had come to introduce herself. She didn’t come in but explained how I could reach her anytime and for safety she would only come into the room when I was out. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out she was from the Philippines, had three children, and had worked for Celebrity for 20 years. She was both charming and efficient. 

I then took a walk around the ship and was duly impressed. It is beautiful. I walked through the huge buffet where people were happily eating lunch and saw instead of serving yourself there were servers behind each station filling people’s plates. All passengers had on their masks when getting food, as did the crew serving them. It made for a very safe feeling. 

Instead of a group muster each passenger was asked to go to their assigned muster station where you were met by staff who explained emergency procedures. You also had to look at a video on the Celebrity app and were then logged in and confirmed you had done so. All efficiently and safely done. 

Then I headed to the sail-away party my travel agent, and friends, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin, were hosting in the Iconic suite. The suite has everything from a peloton cycle to a hot tub for eight. It is incredible. I had the chance to catch up with old friends I had sailed with before the pandemic. Then it was a quick tour of the spa and gym open twenty-four hours a day. A way to assuage guilt over all the food and drink. Then back to the stateroom to finish unpacking and change for dinner with good friends in one of the specialty restaurants, EDEN. That meant long pants and a shirt with a collar. That’s as formal as required on this cruise. 

The food was superb and we got to meet the chef, Nicholas. An interesting guy who I will interview during the cruise. The menu was a combination of fresh fish, lobster, to filet mignon, all interestingly prepared. 

After dinner it was a stop at the Martini bar where a large group of LGBTQ friends had gathered along with some who would become friends. I was surprised when a guy came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t recognize him with his mask on but turned out he was another friend from my past I hadn’t seen in years. It is clearly a small world and the gay world seems even smaller. 

Finally headed to my stateroom around midnight, where turndown service had been done, to get some sleep and prepare for day two, and our first stop, Alicante.  

Day two and three on the Celebrity APEX

Time flies when on a cruise; maybe it’s the endless food and drink. All passengers received a letter in their room telling us we would need to report for a Covid test on day 5 the first at-sea day before we get to the Canary Islands. I pre-scheduled mine just before what I planned as my first hour at the gym. I expect to go to the gym on all sea days and there will be eight of those.

Each morning I have had coffee, a bagel and orange juice delivered to the stateroom.  I always miss that knock on the door each morning when I am home but then I would miss my daily coffee at Java House so I guess it’s OK. 

On day two we stopped at our first port, Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. I was truly surprised at how beautiful the city is. I joined friends for what turned out to be a three and a half hour walk as we were allowed off the ship on our own without booking a tour. We visited churches and the main market in town. We strolled along the beach and the harbor with great walking and bicycle paths. Alicante is a wonderful mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. One friend ventured up to the castle, Castillo de Santa Barbara, but since the elevator (the easy way up) wasn’t working and it’s a very long, steep climb up the mountain I passed. We arrived back at the ship around 1 p.m. and headed to the Mast bar on deck 14 for burgers and fries. Then some time back in the stateroom before heading to the martini bar for a drink and then to the beautiful APEX theater to see the Shamrock Tenors, four Irish performers who are not only talented but cute to boot. 

We decided to try one of the regular restaurants, those not needing reservations and chose Normandy. The food was good and I had shrimp cocktail, rigatoni, and cherries jubilee for dessert. 

After dinner it was up to the Rooftop Garden for ‘Silent Disco’. That is where you get a set of headphones with a few channels of disco music, and you dance to the music only you can hear. It’s really fun but by 11:30 my knees gave out and it was off to bed. 

Day three dawned nice and sunny and we were docked in Cartagena, located in the autonomous of the region of Murcia. I had an 8:45 excursion and again had breakfast delivered to the room. We were instructed to head to the theater to meet the tour group and sign in for our ‘Journey to Murcia’. Murcia is a city in south-eastern Spain, the capital and most populous city of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country, with a population of 447,182. It is about a forty-minute drive from the port. It is a fascinating city with an incredible history from the Romans to and Moorish influence. There is a beautiful cathedral, isn’t there one in every Spanish city? This being a national holiday in Spain most of the shops were closed saving some on the tour a lot of money. We strolled around the city with our guide giving us a running commentary on its history for about an hour and a half. She was a little hard to understand because not only did she have a heavy accent but she spoke really fast. But it was still fun and we did learn a lot. We made a second stop outside the city at another church where a wedding was being officiated. The bride was beautiful. Then we headed back to the ship for an early departure. Our tour was the last onboard and we sailed not more than thirty minutes after we got there. 

Then it was off to the captain’s reception. I had the chance to chat a few moments with the Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, who is as charming as are most Greek men. We also met the rest of the senior crew who run the ship. Many said they would be more than happy to sit and get a cup of coffee with me during our at-sea days so I can interview and write about them.

Then it was back to my stateroom again to prepare for another tough night of food and drinking. We went to see Andrew Derbyshire in the theater for the 7:30 show and then to dinner at Cyprus.   After dinner Celebrity hosted the first LGBTQ+ event of the cruise at the EDEN bar. A large crowd showed up, not all gay but they all knew where the fun people would be. The entertainers all showed up there as including the Shamrock Tenors, four talented Irish guys and Andrew Derbyshire, a British actor and singer. We chatted and I will meet him for coffee to do a column on him. 

Then about midnight it was back to the stateroom for what some of my friends on board called an early night. Morning would have us docking in Cadiz and we had a private tour planned for over 20 of the people who had booked the trip with Scott Moster, travel agent extraordinaire, taking us to the city of Seville.  

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ clouds Powell’s legacy

A final act of redemption

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Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (Photo by Susan Montgomery via Bigstock)

The legacy of General Colin Powell is complicated for those in the LGBTQ community. On the one hand, we celebrate that Powell was the first African-American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State. On the other, he is also the person who disobeyed the strategic choice of his Commander in Chief, Bill Clinton, on gays in the military. 

Powell stood on the steps of the Pentagon reporting how many calls had been received opposing lifting the ban. He testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service of openly gay troops would harm unit cohesion. He argued that race was a “benign characteristic” and being gay was not. Congress codified into statute what had been a regulatory ban on gays in the military, making the law that much harder to change. Almost 14,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual service members were dismissed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a rate of two-four service members every day. Some were subjects of witch hunts. Others faced criminal charges. Many endured harassment, assault and threats. Private First Class Barry Winchell was murdered.

Michelle Benecke and I knew when we founded Servicemembers Legal Defense Network that for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to be repealed, we would have to either win the support or neutralize the opposition of Powell, one of the previously undisclosed strategies described in my new book, “Mission Possible.” Michelle and I first met him at the Arlington, Va., headquarters of America’s Promise. We offered to brief him on the ban’s implementation as he was being asked on the Sunday shows about the law’s efficacy. He agreed to see us.

The question was whether we could find common ground on which to build a new consensus. My theory was that Powell genuinely believed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was a better policy than the one before it. After all, he had testified before the Senate, “We will not ask, we will not witch-hunt, we will not seek to learn orientation.” 

“General Powell,” I said, “we have received nearly a thousand calls from service members who have been impacted by ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ We have documented that most are being asked point blank about their sexual orientation in contravention of ‘Don’t Ask.’” 

“That’s not supposed to happen,” he said.

That was our first conversation. We might have been able to better enforce some of the meager gains under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” if we had been able to prevail upon Powell to help us, but he wasn’t ready. 

In 2003, he told Teen Ink magazine that while discrimination is wrong, “I think it’s a different matter with respect to the military, because you’re essentially told who you’re going to live with, who you’re going to sleep next to.”

Four years later, he called me, prompted by an opinion essay in The New York Times that I had sent him. “Second Thoughts on Gays in the Military”—written by retired Army General John Shalikashvili, Powell’s successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs—called for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Powell and I spoke for 45 minutes. “I agree with General Shalikashvili that America has changed and is ready for gays to serve openly,” he said. My heart leapt. “I am not convinced, however, that military commanders are ready for that change.” My heart sunk.

It was clear to me, though, that he was moving in the right direction.  I put it on the line. “Sir, you will be a critical voice on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ when it comes up for debate again. I need you to support repeal if we are going to win. Do you know that?”

“Yes,” he said.

Finally, on Feb. 5, 2010, 10 months before final repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and days after Admiral Mike Mullen had testified before the Senate that he supported repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Powell released a statement. “If the chiefs and commanders are comfortable with moving to change the policy, then I support it. Attitudes and circumstances have changed. Society is reflected in the military. It’s where we get our soldiers from.” The stage was set for final repeal.

We too often look for heroes and villains when the record can be complicated. Powell deserves opprobrium for defying Clinton, rallying opposition, and allowing 60,000 troops under his command to suffer the indignity of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” He deserves credit, though, for changing his mind. I admired his willingness to speak with me over nearly two decades. I find that the best leaders engage in a lifelong process of learning and challenging assumptions. Powell will receive deserved accolades for his service to our nation, but for us, his legacy includes a profound betrayal with a final act of redemption.

C. Dixon Osburn is author of ‘Mission Possible: The Story of Repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’’

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‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal serves as a guide for enacting equality legislation

Equality Act supporters should take cues from Senate moderates

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Equality legislation is close to passing in Congress, but close isn’t good enough. “Close” won’t change anything for the LGBTQ Americans who face discrimination every day. Senate Democrats and Republicans must make a push to negotiate. With a reach on both sides to find common ground, we can move equality legislation from “close” to “done deal.”

Some Democrats are waiting for the filibuster to end—despite clear evidence that they lack the votes to end it. Some Republicans are practicing a tried-and-true brand of obstructionism. To break this deadlock, we should look to the successful, bipartisan repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) as a guide.

The DADT repeal is the single reference point for LGBTQ advocates for overcoming the Senate filibuster. Other victories have been in the courts; notably, the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision that made gay marriage legal nationwide.

Before Obergefell, advocates had success in the state legislatures. I worked on campaigns for the freedom to marry in Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York and elsewhere, finding common ground between Democrats and Republicans who thought it was impossible to negotiate on marriage. Eventually, enough people from both parties came together to pass marriage laws in a majority of states.

Working together at the state level is one thing. Congress is another.

Despite Democrats’ control of the White House, Senate and House, negotiations are failing at the federal level. So, we lets look to ancient history—the 2010 repeal of DADT—for guidance on reaching 60 votes in the Senate.

The most important lesson from the DADT repeal is that Senate moderates must champion the cause and lead negotiations. The more partisan figures on both sides need to step back. Overcoming the filibuster is a job for moderates, not ideologues.

As it happens, the hero of the DADT repeal is still a senator and can help. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine led the negotiations on DADT repeal.

Senator Collins supports the Equality Act in principle and even sponsored a version of the bill in past. However, the current version is too extreme for Sen. Collins, as a result, she has withdrawn as a co-sponsor. The current bill has also foundered with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another important figure in the repeal of DADT.

The fact that moderate, pro-LGBTQ senators are unable to back the current version of the Equality Act should send a clear message to Democrats that we need to make reasonable changes to the bill. So far, the message is being ignored.

On the Democratic side, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman was essential to the repeal of DADT. There certainly were passionate, liberal Democrats who could have asserted themselves during the debate. But then, the bill would have taken longer to pass, or even might have failed.

The lesson is clear. Listen to the moderates. Let them lead this charge.

Another important lesson from the repeal of DADT is to be flexible in the legislative strategy. DADT repeal was originally an amendment to a large defense authorization bill. Rather than give up, Collins and Lieberman fought and saved DADT repeal from defeat by pulling out key provisions they knew could pass on their own and making them a standalone measure. Repeal passed with bipartisan support.

The current version of the Equality Act tries to do too much. That’s why it can’t win support from moderate Republicans who have legitimate concerns the bill might suppress free speech or shut down religious charities.  

Over 60 senators can agree on the basic premise of the Equality Act. They would gladly vote to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in employment, housing, and public accommodations, so long as the law didn’t intrude on the First Amendment.

If the far left believes that our country has too much religious liberty, they can deal with that in future legislation. But so long as we have a filibuster—and, there’s no indication it will end any time soon—the Equality Act needs to reflect our society’s current views on religious liberty.  

The DADT repeal passed with 65 votes in the Senate, overcoming the filibuster. Let’s replicate that victory by using the same playbook. Moderates: Take the lead.

Tyler Deaton is the senior advisor to the American Unity Fund, a conservative nonprofit organization working to advance LGBTQ freedom and religious freedom

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