Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Obama Administration Defies Judge's Orders on Federal Benefits; Update on Federal LGBT Rights Bills

In late November, a judge ordered Obama's administration to enroll a lesbian federal employee's partner into their health benefits program. With 30 days to comply sprinting by, it appears they won't act on the order.

The administration already has a long history of defending anti-LGBT laws it says are discriminatory but must protect because their "job description" tells them so. However, openly gay Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry, who ironically is going along with the administration and told Blue Cross/Blue Shield to not extend the benefits to his fellow gay citizen, says he nor Obama have the authority to follow the judge's order. Huh? He spoke at the International Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference Saturday.

I guess they're simply hoping that Rep. Tammy Baldwin's Domestic Partnership Benefits & Obligation Act succeeds so that they won't have to take responsibility for anything. That's a rather cowardly strategy in my opinion. And I would bet that the legislation won't pass by the time the 30 days are up. So what is the administration going to say then?

Actually, unless a miracle happens (calling Mr. Chip), I know it won't pass by then. Baldwin recently said that the bill will be voted on in early 2010. Though that's great news, it's not so great news for the administration who's defying a judge's orders.

But here's some actual good news. Openly gay Reps. Baldwin and Jared Polis, "said they are also confident that the House will include in the annual military spending bill next year a provision to repeal the law that bans gays from serving in the U.S. military. All the measures face a harder time in the Senate following the death of longtime ally Sen. Edward Kennedy, but Baldwin and Polis said they remained optimistic Senate leaders would."

“I’m hopeful we will see those three pieces of legislation make it all the way, or damn close,” said Baldwin, referring to the Domestic Partnership Benefits, DADT and ENDA.
Office of Personnel Management director John Berry, the Obama administration’s highest ranking gay appointee, told the conference that the president strongly supports the trio of gay rights measures.

Including transgender workers as part of the legislation to ban job discrimination and lifting the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on gay service members may especially meet opposition in Congress, Berry said. But he said that with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities controlling the House and the Senate, victories were “within our grasp.”
I hope they're right. There's been a lot of anger recently about ENDA stalling in congress.

Everyone keeps saying, "Wait for 2010." Though I applaud Baldwin and Polis, their Democratic colleagues better come through on their promises, because with the Don't Ask Don't Give campaign growing momentum, and the recent betrayal in the New York state senate by the Democrats there, they better be doing everything they can to get these pieces of legislation through, or they just may find LGBT citizens supporting their primary opponents.

Oh wait, the LGBT already have begun doing just that in New York. This "bloodbath" is at the state level for now. Don't think it won't go federal.

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