It’s magic time in Washington, D. C., and our LGBT media, bloggers and particularly lobbyists like Human Rights Campaign are not feeling that magic. Most are tripping over themselves to give what they believe should be the LGBT priorities for the Obama administration’s second term. All their suggestions are worthy, but they all miss the Washington magic. They’re looking in the wrong place.
Let’s take a cue from the Latino community. It’s the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue we should be focusing on — the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The Latino community gets the game: Their lobbyists have a focus and make it simple for legislators to understand. For them, it’s the Dream Act. For us, it should be the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.
Magic time in D.C. happens rarely. It comes every four to eight years and only when there is a true shift in the populace that one of the political parties begins to look inward to try and find their deficiencies. That magic time usually runs from the election to the end of the current congressional term, since the congressional leadership can count on the majority of outgoing members for their votes in trade for future assistance, and on current members looking for plum positions in the new Congress.
ENDA is the only major part of our priority list that is not accomplished. It’s important, since most LGBT Americans are still not protected in employment. Military servicemembers are; if you work for the U.S. government you are. To our lobbyists in D.C., isn’t it time to use our political capital for the rest of the people?
How to make it happen: It takes three steps. First, ENDA must pass both the House and Senate, then be signed by the president, whose support we already have. We know we also have the support of Democratic leadership and the overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House and Senate. OK, here comes the problem, and a suggestion.
From that scenario, you should devise that the hold-up would be in the House of Representatives, whose speaker is Congressman John Boehner. The speaker controls all. If he wishes, legislation will make it to the floor and to a vote. He does not necessarily have to have his name on the legislation. The point is, he has the Republican votes and the authority to get it through the House. And as magic season has it, he’s very much aware of not only the future of Republicans in the House, but those around him who want his job. That, my friends, spells opportunity. Choose your partner and dance. Anyone in for a fox trot with Congressman Cantor?
Time for our friends at GOProud and Log Cabin and people like Ken Mehlman to prove themselves. They should either, on their own or with a coalition of organizations, focus like a laser beam on ENDA and Boehner. If you guys don’t have the access, then it’s time for you to stand your ground, as Latinos have with the Dream Act. Ken, raising money for marriage equality will not wash the blood off your hands, but standing in front of the Capitol at a news conference fighting for nondiscrimination starts you on that path.
Here’s the rub: We have about four weeks left of this Congress. Think that is not enough time? Remember the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”? That’s all it took, just two years ago.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at [email protected].