The House of Representatives postponed votes on the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, along with an amendment that would have added gender identity back into the text of the gay-only workplace rights bill. Originally scheduled to be voted out of the Rules Committee and onto the House floor on Wednesday, the bill and the amendment are now expected to come before lawmakers next week. Some sources said the delay was to buy time for additional lobbying in an effort to pass the gender identity amendment.
I will spare you the rehash of ENDA’s troubled last few weeks, on the theory that if you managed to miss the lead story in community news for such a sustained period, you are perhaps not that interested in GLBT news to begin with.
I’m not chiding you. Believe me, there are many times when I too find myself overcome with a certain ennui as I doggedly scan through the comings and goings of our plucky community on my cyber lists of press releases and bulletins. A teacher at Harry Potter’s magical prep school that begins with H is gay! (I’m not looking it up.) The incumbent Republican governor of Kentucky sent around a nasty piece of campaign mail that involved something gay!
(I’m not looking it up. Governor Fletcher is losing for the moment, which pleases us.) Teeny tiny worms can be turned gay by meddling scientists! (That one is actually pretty cool. More later.)
Bush To Veto Whatever Emerges
But back to ENDA. On Tuesday, the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement signaling that Bush will veto the Act should it reach his desk in any form. Even Weak ENDA has little chance of passing the Senate, and it’s no surprise that the measure is doomed in the event that it survives both houses of Congress. Indeed, some of the arguments in favor of an all-or-nothing approach to the legislation are based on the symbolic nature of the House vote. If the damn thing isn’t headed into the law books to begin with, the argument goes, why compromise on the critical issue of gender identity and set the stage for further erosion?
That debate aside, the veto memo presented four irritatingly inaccurate objections to the proposed law.
First, the White House said ENDA would compromise the free exercise of religion, presumably by making it illegal for faith based homophobes to manifest their God-given antipathy towards gays and lesbians through punitive action in the workplace. Second, the text claims that ENDA interferes with the 11th Amendment, which (I think) protects states against suits by non-resident individuals pressing claims under federal law. Whatever. I’m sure it’s bogus. (The argument, not the 11th Amendment.) Third, ENDA is “ambiguous” and will “encourage burdensome litigation beyond the cases that the bill is designed to reach.” Tell that to the states that have been enforcing ENDA-like laws with no problem for years. And finally, the veto memo says that ENDA will conflict with the federal definition of marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act, which is flat nonsense.
Update. Commenting on the memo, handsome University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter had this to say about the 11th Amendment part: “Given the Court’s bizarre sovereign immunity doctrine and close limits on Congress’ civil rights power under the 14th Amendment, there may well be a problem with the section [of ENDA] that authorizes money damages in lawsuits against state governments. The rest of the law is perfectly constitutional, and as we know, President Bush has no problem signing laws that he believes are unconstitutional in part.”
Hope that helps! So, let’s call it “mostly bogus.”
Unfriendly Federal Appellate Judge Confirmed
Meanwhile, in other Congressional news, the Senate confirmed Leslie Southwick to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, with particular assistance from Dianne Feinstein, who broke a tie in committee earlier this summer and set the stage for the controversial judicial nominee to get a confirmation vote. Dianne? I live in Texas, which happens to be under the jurisdiction of the Fifth Circuit. Was there a particular reason you reached out from your own bailiwick to pull the cork on this conservative judge, who appeared to be nicely bottled up in the judiciary committee?
“Judge Southwick is a qualified, circumspect person,” Feinstein said at the time. “I don’t believe he’s a racist. ... I believe he made a mistake” in the several decisions that raised eyebrows from his decade-plus stint on the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Southwick did not author the offending opinions, but he sided with the majorities that backed use of racist language (the n word) in the workplace, and took an eight year old child away from her otherwise capable lesbian mother. According to the Human Rights Campaign, he also joined a concurring opinion in that custody case, disparaging gay men and women in no uncertain terms, although I haven’t had the pleasure of reading that for myself.
Unlike some of Bush’s nominees, Southwick has high marks from the American Bar Association, and has served in Iraq under the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Still. Would you want this guy on the Ninth Circuit, Dianne?
Southwick cleared the Senate by a 59-38 margin Wednesday after lawmakers voted 62-35 to end debate on the issue earlier Wednesday morning.
Value Voters Scraping the Barrel
So, I followed the Value Voter Summit last weekend, and watched the GOP debate out of Orlando on Sunday night. I love seeing the Christian right so disorganized and frustrated, don’t you? One of the big underreported stories arising from these events in my view was the news that Rudy Giuliani will, in fact, support a federal amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage, but not until it becomes “necessary.” An amendment would be “necessary,” he says, if and when a handful of states legalize gay unions.
The former New York mayor has been trying desperately to shed the “pro-gay” label since his campaign took wings earlier this year. But despite his public condemnation of New Hampshire’s civil union bill, which I thought was pretty damned hostile, the pundits keep tagging him “pro choice and pro gay.” Well, he used to be a relatively gay friendly moderate Republican, but I think his new support for amending the U.S. Constitution to discriminate against same-sex couples for the foreseeable future should be rewarded. Media? Can we please stop calling Rudy Giuliani “pro gay?” Thank you!
Of course, the turnaround is not enough to actually win broad favor from the evangelical wingnuts. But it might be enough, along with his pledge to appoint Darth Vader to the Supreme Court, to avoid a third party challenge from his right if he were to win the GOP nomination. That’s unfortunate, because an independent conservative run would likely seal the deal for the Democrats in 2008.
Meanwhile, Romney, Huckabee and Thompson are sort of neck, neck and neck as far as the Christian right is concerned. Each of the three men has their own fan base. And each of the three have strong opponents. Romney for his Mormonism and his flip-flops. Huckabee for his lack of electability and dirth of foreign policy experience. And Thompson for his inept campaigning and dull, perhaps dimwitted, performance in the public square. Finally, I’m not sure why the far right turns up their collective nose at McCain. He’s extremely conservative, as electable as anyone, well-qualified and quite the qwistian. But they’re having none of it.
And that just adds to the fun. In short, our adversaries hate the front runner and likely nominee. They shrug off the most qualified man. And they’re spinning their wheels trying to find a consensus between three other guys who they can’t agree about. Last Sunday, the leaders of the conservative movement locked themselves in a back room in order to come up with an endorsement. That meeting was unsuccessful, so they decided to pray over Thanksgiving and try to get together on the presidential race after the holiday. They have given themselves the green light to endorse candidates as individuals, but I’m guessing they’ll keep their powder dry just a little longer in the hope that the good lord will answer their Turkey Day pleadings. (Last month, the leaders agreed to hold off on endorsing candidates until after last Sunday’s meeting.)
Oh, and here’s one other tidbit. Former Southern Baptist honcho Don Wilton has pulled his endorsement of Mitt Romney, claiming that he had not intended to take a public stand in favor of the Massachusetts Mormon. Romney had announced Wilton’s support with much fanfare the other day, and it was not clear why the reverend changed his tune. In a statement, Wilton called his endorsement “a personal error,” and pledged “to use my personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as the only standard by which I determine who to vote for in any election.”
In Democratic news, Barack Obama is taking heat for barnstorming through South Carolina with an entourage of African American singers including ex-gay preacher Donnie McClurkin, who urges others to rid themselves of the “curse of homosexuality” which adheres through “neglect, abuse and molestation.” Oops! The Grammy award winning gospel singer will help cap Obama’s “Forty Days of Faith and Family” tour, aimed at the Black electorate in this early primary state.
Although the Senator issued a ringing paragraph distancing himself from McClurkin’s beliefs, he has not jettisoned the performer from the weekend festivities. Nor can he, if you think about it. I’m guessing that if Obama’s staff had looked more closely at McClurkin’s history, the man would not have been invited to join the tour in the first place. But now that he’s there, Obama can’t dump him under pressure without appearing weak, unpresidential, and hostage to political correctness.
“I strongly believe that African Americans and the LGBT community must stand together in the fight for equal rights,” Obama said. “And so I strongly disagree with Reverend McClurkin’s views and will continue to fight for these rights as President of the United States to ensure that America is a country that spreads tolerance instead of division.”
Strategically, since he failed to give McClurkin the old heave ho right off the bat, that’s about all he can do without alienating much of his target audience among African American churchgoers in the South. If the incident forces the candidate to keep repeating his own position in favor of gay rights, it might be worth it. But it still illustrates a lack of attention to detail by the Obama campaign staff. One wonders if any of them had heard of McClurkin to begin with.
Okay. Nematodes! These are the worms I mentioned earlier, who have been manipulated by Science to change the object of their sexual desires. I’ve been reading quite a bit about this University of Utah study, and in doing so I learned that only one in 500 nematodes are male. All the rest are hermaphrodites, and there are no true females, per se. So let’s just say the nematode population has its own, unique sexual culture. Just try and take gender identity out of the Nematode Employment Discrimination Act and you’d really have a fight on your hands.
Anyway, the males are attracted to the hermaphrodites, and from what I gather, the hermaphrodites are attracted to the males—sadly for them, given the aforementioned ratios.
After messing around with sensory neurons at various stages in the life of these humble creatures, researchers then washed hermaphrodite worms in water, and used said water to saturate a “jelly like growth medium” which then exuded delicious hermaphrodite pheromones. Or not! Leaving further technical details aside, the researchers managed to screw around with the males until they were no longer interested in hermaphrodite pheromone flavored jelly-like growth medium. While the treated hermaphrodites, normally indifferent to each other, went wild for the stuff.
“People debate whether the brain is influenced by sexual hormones from the gonads, or whether the behavior is derived from the brain alone,” said a Scientist. “In this case, it’s clear the brain is sexualized…. The surprise was that sensory neurons found in the hermaphrodite brain are involved in sexual attraction in males.” And what a pleasant surprise it was!
Gay vs. Dole
Finally, before we go, I should mention Jim Neal, the only Democrat officially contesting the reelection of Senator Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina, is gay. Neal told the press that his family, friends and colleagues all know about his sexual orientation, but that he doesn’t consider the subject worth talking about on the campaign trail. “It’s no secret,” said the 50-year-old banker. “Why would you not talk about the color of your eyes?”
According to the local press, party leaders are still looking for a better known candidate to take on Dole, not because Neal is gay, but presumably because he is a long shot political novice.