Three bills that would put an end to serious injustices against GLBT people have been filed over the last few months in Washington, DC. The first, a bill that would repeal the failed “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell-Don’t-Pursue” law that bans openly gay people from serving in the military, was filed a few months ago. The second is a bill that would add sexual orientation to hate crime laws. The third, a sweeping Employment Nondiscrimination Act which includes “sexual orientation” was just filed yesterday by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).
All three of these bills should be passed. These are basic issues on equality which address some much-needed protections for GLBT people across the country. The sad reality is that every one of them has been filed before, and either held up or stymied by a Republican-controlled congress.
About 11,000 servicemen and women have been kicked out of the military since the atrocious “Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell-Don’t-Pursue” law was put into place. Even today, gay and lesbian soldiers must hide who they really are in order to protect their jobs. They’ll often have to change pronouns when discussing their relationships, and live in constant fear of being discovered. The bill filed my Rep. Marty Mehann (D-MA) would change this, and would allow GLBT people to serve openly.
Conservative politicians, previous Joint Chiefs and groups have countered that if the ban on gays in the military were to be repealed, that it would “lower morale” and cause problems within the ranks. More and more, the opposite is being shown to be true. When polled, most soldiers would accept GLBT members. Of the three bills, I really think this one won’t be passed until the 2009 session. It will, however, be a major issue in the coming Presidential election.
Conservative pundits and preachers have joined together in denouncing the addition of “sexual orientation” to hate crime laws. They have said that people can “change” their sexuality, so therefore there should be no protection provided. They worry that if such a law was put into place that it would prevent them from speaking their conscience on the “evils” of the “gay lifestyle.”
Let me be clear. The APA and about a dozen other major medical and professional organizations (including the AMA and the American Bar Association) have denounced “reparative therapy” for homosexuals. They say that such attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation would actually do more harm than good. These quacks who continue to propagate these dangerous programs are actually feeding the high suicide rate for GLBT people, all in the name of “morality.”
All the while, truth gets distorted or even cast aside outright. For example, Lou Sheldon, chairman of the anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, throws his usual spin that conservative and fundamentalist ministers would be persecuted with the new law:
“This bill begins to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute and persecute pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions are based upon, and reflect, the truths found in the Bible,” he said.
This rhetoric is repeated by pundits and preachers all across the country. Maybe it would help if they actually read the bill. No, that wouldn’t do at all, would it? After all, if they spread their lies enough, people will believe them without reading it. Because, if someone takes the time to read the bill, they’d realize that it addresses violence, not hate speech. In fact, hate speech isn’t mentioned in the bill at all!
Sheldon and his group is so obsessed with the gay issue that he’s willing to distort the truth on a regular basis to create a straw man enemy to raise money for his own organization. I don’t have to say how low-class this really is. He actually has the audacity to say that there’s no discrimination against GLBT people anywhere!
So there’s no discrimination, eh? Tell that to Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death with a pistol butt and tied to a fence. Tell that to Scotty Joe Weaver, the Alabama teenager who was brutally murdered for being a “faggot.” Tell that to Gwen Aruso, the transgender girl who was killed. Tell that to countless gay and lesbian teenagers who are bullied or beaten just for having the appearance of being gay.
According to the Washington Times, “According to the most recent FBI statistics, there were 1,171 reported hate crimes targeting homosexuals in 2005, or 14 percent of all hate crimes reported that year.” That’s nearly 1200 people that have been affected by discrimination and hate that people like Lou Sheldon say doesn’t exist. Maybe if he pretends it doesn’t exist, then we’ll go away.
Finally, the latest bill is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would added sexual orientation and gender identity to workplace protection. There are similar laws in place for 17 states. Most of the Fortune-500 companies have some form of protection. More than 100 municipalities and cities have nondiscrimination ordinances. This bill would be a critical addition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and falls well within the 14th amendment which provides “equal protection under the law” for all people.
The conservative outcry is that it would force people with “religious conviction” to hire someone who are gay. Not so. The bill would not apply to the military or to churches. I have to question what “religious conviction” has to do with whether or not a GLBT person can do the job required of them?
I really don’t think it has to do with “conviction.” The reality is that there’s nothing Christian about being prejudiced against someone just for their sexual orientation. These are human beings who have a right to an equal and fair workplace for everyone. Why is that so difficult for some people to grasp?
All of these bills should be passed, and they should be signed by the President. It’s time to put these three great injustices in the past, and bring in a future where equality is a reality for everyone.