Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Policy Matters - September 14, 2010

Front Page Headlines
Editorial: Protecting LGBT Rights. The Los Angeles Times editorial board discusses the importance of the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and writes, "Democratic leaders in both houses should expedite consideration of the bill as this Congress nears its conclusion. If they don't, President Obama should press them to act. LGBT [sic] employees are still subjected to unequal treatment and harassment. Enacting ENDA is a moral as well as a political imperative."

Schwarzenegger Continues to Reject Prop 8 Appeal. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding firm in his refusal to defend the state's same-sex marriage ban in court. Lawyers for Schwarzenegger said in a letter last Wednesday (that was filed with the CA Supreme Court) that the governor has authority to refuse to appeal a federal judge's ruling that overturned Proposition 8. It came in response to an effort by a conservative legal group to persuade the court to force Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown to challenge the Aug. 4 ruling that declared the voter-approved ban unconstitutional. While Proposition 8's sponsors have appealed, questions have been raised about whether these sponsors have the authority to do so because as ordinary citizens they are not responsible for enforcing marriage laws.

Citizen Board: Atlanta Police Mistreated LGBT Bar Patrons. A citizen oversight panel said that action should be taken against a number of Atlanta Police officers for improperly detaining dozens of people at a gay bar raid. The raid took place in September 2009, when officers from the APD Vice Squad and Red Dog unit ordered patrons of the Atlanta Eagle gay bar to lie face down on the floor for up to an hour. Review Board Executive Director Cristina Beamud confirmed to CBS Atlanta in an e-mail that the board wants Atlanta Police officials to take action against the 24 officers involved in the raid. The board decided recommendations for disciplining specific officers should wait until investigators determine the exact roles of each officer. The board also said supervising officers should be disciplined for allowing the individuals in question to use profane and homophobic language during the raid.

Public Policy Watch
CA Judge Rules “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Unconstitutional. A federal judge in California said last Thursday that the U.S. military’s ban on openly gay service members violates the Constitution, the most recent in a string of court rulings overturning restrictions on the rights of the country's gay men and lesbians. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips said the government's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy is a violation of due process and First Amendment rights. Instead of being necessary for military readiness, she said, the policy has a “direct and deleterious effect” on the armed services. Citing testimony at a two-week trial in July by experts and former service members, Phillips wrote, “All of these examples demonstrate that the act’s restrictions on speech not only are broader than reasonably necessary to protect the government’s substantial interests, but also actually serve to impede military readiness and unit cohesion rather than further these goals.”

LGBT organizations plan September Lobby Days. On Sept. 15, the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) plans to hold a lobby day as part of its “Out on the Hill” gathering of national black LGBT leaders which runs through Sept. 18. In addition to the lobby day, the event is slated to include a White House briefing and community reception. Meanwhile, Servicemembers United (SU) will hold its fall “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” lobby day on September 16. The organization has described this event as being focused on the nuances of the DADT repeal amendment that is soon to be up for debate on the floor of the Senate. In addition, the leadership and staff of the Pentagon working group conducting the DADT repeal review will meet with a group of lesbian and gay military partners during SU’s Military Partners Forum. The group also has a reception planned in conjunction with the event. For more information on these events please visit here and here.

ENDA: Requiring Fairness for All Employees. Maxine Eichner, Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law presents an Issue Brief, discussing how gaps in federal law leave many lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers unprotected against workplace discrimination. Collectively, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability, but federal law contains no explicit protection against discrimination based on LGBT status. Limited protection has been offered through some case law interpreting Title VII anti-discrimination and sexual harassment law, but for the most part, LGBT workers are forced to endure incomplete and inadequate protection based on state and local law, if they are lucky enough to live and work in jurisdictions where such protections exist at all. Professor Eichner expresses her view that passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would help fill the void in legal protections. Read more about the brief here.

A Question from the Field
Dear Policy Matters,
I read in the Advocate that if Senator Reid doesn’t schedule a vote for repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” by next week, lesbian, gay and bisexual service members are likely to wait another year before they see this discriminatory law rescinded. What can PFLAG members do now to make sure this law is once and forever repealed?
Thanks so much,
Paul

****
Dear Paul,

Thank you so much for your question. When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., next week, the full Senate will have its first opportunity in 17 years to do away with DADT when it votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which contains provisions that would allow for repeal of this law. Their legislative calendar looks crowded, and the window of opportunity to pass repeal will be narrow.

You are correct in noting that delaying action on “don’t ask, don’t tell” until after the midterms could potentially kill the measure for the year, which is why PFLAG and other repeal advocates are pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a Senate floor vote on the Defense funding bill next week September. We can only get this vote scheduled with your help by keeping up the pressure on both your senators until the Senate votes to end DADT.

Please take a few minutes today and call the capital switchboard at (202) 224-3121 today, and urge your senators to make passage of repeal legislation a top priority the week of September 20th. And ask them to urge their Joint Leadership -- Senators Reid and McConnell -- to schedule this vote.

A full Senate floor vote is one of the last major legislative hurdles that stands in the way of repeal. Unfortunately, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has been a vocal opponent of repeal from the start. He has indicated that he, along with other repeal foes, will pull out all the stops in coming weeks, from attempting to strike repeal language from the NDAA to offering weakening amendments or threatening to filibuster the entire defense budget.

We cannot let that happen.

If the defense budget bill doesn't move to the Senate floor by the end of this month, DADT repeal may not happen for several more years.
Call these key senators now. We need a repeal vote the week of September 20th.

• Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (202) 224-3542
• Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (202) 224-2541
• Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (202)224-2235

Also please be sure to share this message on your Twitter and Facebook accounts today!
Warmest regards,
Policy Matters

P.S. Have you downloaded your new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2010 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit. www.pflag.org/btmh for more information now.

Please note that Policy Matters will return on September 28, 2010. If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than September 24, 2010.

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