Monday, March 12, 2007

The New Congress Makes Unprecedented Progess for LGBT

As we start organizing our field campaign for Melissa Noriega's council race, I thought it might be nice to look at some of the great legislation that is expected from the new congress. Pro-GLBT legislation has stagnated for many years, but with last fall's Democratic election surge, it seems that unprecedented progress is finally being made. I guess the work of grassroots organization's, like ours, really pays off.

Last week Congressional Quarterly reviewed some of the pro GLBT bills that will be introduced during this session. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Michigan's John Conyers Jr., chairman of the house judiciary committee, will be introducing a bill federalizing gay hate crimes against GLBT. The bill will also provide law enforcement agencies with resources that will help them deal with the special nature of these crimes. Senator Edward Kennedy is expected to carry the bill in the Senate.
  • A bipartisan team, including Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Christopher Shays of Connecticut, and Deborah Pryce of Ohio, is preparing a much anticipated employment non-discrimination act. Senator Kennedy is expected to carry this bill as well.
  • Congressman Jim McDermott is expected to introduce legislation that would permit employees and companies to make pretax payments toward a same-sex domestic partner’s medical costs.
  • Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts will reintroduce his much reported Military Readiness Enhancement Act. This legislation would repeal the "don't ask don't tell" policy, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. Military.
None of these ideas are new. In fact, our community has been looking forward to the passage of this kind of legislation for many years. Some of these bills have been introduced and reintroduced in multiple sessions, but this year they have a good chance of passing. Even anti-gay, conservative groups are on defense when it comes to these bills. It seems that the 2006 election will have a significant, positive impact on our community, so congratulations to everyone that has been working so hard for this day.

There's progress in the Texas house as well. Just last week, 2 Republicans and forty-six Democrats, including our own recently elected Ellen Cohen and Boris Miles, joined Garnet Coleman's efforts to remove discriminatory language from Texas's "Romeo and Juliet" law. An unusual amount of Pro LGBT legislation has been filed in the Texas legislature this session. I've already reported on some of these bills, but you can track all of them over at Equality Texas.

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