In last week’s column, we gave the numbers and the need for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and, more importantly, the need for Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
While the repeal of the military ban could prevent a potential of 135,000 from being discharged, ENDA can protect 7.5 million Americans from possible employment discrimination.
So, with those figures in hand, the question should be asked: Why is the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” more popular in our community than ENDA?
Latest polls show the American public — even among regular churchgoers — favors overturning the military ban and passing ENDA. The latter almost passed in the U.S. Senate: It lost by one vote, and that was while the Republicans were the controlling party. Surely, the odds should be in our favor with 60 Democrats in the Senate. But we need to give clear signals to Congress that ENDA is our priority.
It is my belief that if you’re on a level playing field between the two pieces of legislation, you can do one of two things: Decide which is your first priority or meld the bills together, as we outlined in the first part of this analysis.
We, as a community, have not been clear with the president or Congress on a priority. We also have not assessed the political situation facing this president at this minute. Simply put, he has differences with his military leaders. This is no time to create another fight with them. That would be an exact copy of what happened to President Clinton: The joint chiefs disagreed with Clinton’s move to allow gays in the military, went directly to Congress and held hearings testifying against the president’s plan.
In Washington, all the pundits agree that the ban on openly gay servicemembers will happen, but a move now would result in the chiefs digging in their heels. Our timeline of having this done by the end of President Obama’s first term allows for a rapprochement between the military and president — and the window of opportunity.
While we’re waiting for that window, ENDA needs to be our first priority. After all, 1.7-million LGBT American citizens need job security.
Mark Segal is PGN publisher. He can be reached at [email protected].