WASHINGTON -- After more than a decade of government inaction, gay-rights proponents in Congress have gotten several major bills moving through the Democratic-controlled chambers, a development that could result in the greatest expansion of federal protections for gays and lesbians in US history.
For far too long, Democrats have just expected support from the gay community - with very little to show for it. Part of that fact was the Democrats were out of power, but there were still things they could have done, but weren't willing to do. For example, they could have stood up for gay people, instead of often joining in the neo-con fun and games. It's high past time to see Democrats advance gay rights - and good on them for finally doing it. It's more than a decade too late, but society has shifted position on gay rights and is now overwhelmingly in favor of it - so Dems have no more excuses. Thus, the sea change in D.C.
There are two bills that look to be fast tracked in DC: the first is a hate crimes expansion, the second is a bill that protects from workplace discrimination. Passing both bills is beyond obvious, so let's hope they win with overwhelming support and President Bush doesn't foolishly veto them. While some people say "a crime is a crime," the fact remains that many people in that camp - Christian Conservatives - didn't feel that way the last time hate crimes went through. Then, they demanded religious intolerance be deemed a hate crime - and for good reason. The fact that they then went and blocked a glbt addition to the hate crimes law was just that much more hypocritical.
The second piece of legislation is even more important. While hopefully increasing tolerance, education and a shifting attitude in society to a more welcoming, liberal place will have a huge impact on reducing hate crimes, workplace discrimination is a scary reality. Gay people only have workplace protections in states that deem it worthy to protect them. Currently, in many states - because of a lack of a federal statute - it's legal to fire someone just because they're glbt - a fact most people don't realize. How could discrimination of that magnitude be legal in this country? Hopefully, it won't be for much longer.
Kudos to the National Dems for being the change that they want. Protecting this country's vulnerable minorities is one of the most important things it can do.