It may have passed without note. That’s why it is a well known axiom in politics that if you want to take a certain action but have it buried, the period from Friday noon through Saturday night is the ideal time to act. And if it’s right before a holiday weekend, so much the better.
Perhaps that was the motivation in the latest indignity from the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC, encapsulated in a simple photograph of First Lady Melania Trump and the other spouses of the world leaders at their recent meeting. Omitted from the caption of the official White House photo was the name of the First Gentleman of Luxembourg.
No, the head of state of that delightful land is not a woman, but a gay man – the first (out) gay head of state on the planet. And his husband, entitled to be in the picture, was ignored by the Trump White House.
I suppose we should be grateful that M. Destenay was not Photoshopped out of the shot – you know, like they would do in the old days of Communism when they wanted someone out of favor to just disappear.
This all reminds me of a book I read several years ago called “I Will Bear Witness,” by Victor Klemperer. The book is a chronicle of the indignities put onto the Jews of Germany by the Nazis in the 1930s. Oh they were small at first, and would pass largely without notice. Then they got more serious. But by then the populace was inured to it all. It was too late.
With this as a prologue, we can place last Friday’s event at the Wilton Manors Pride Center into its proper context. I had no idea the event was even taking place. I was at the Center for another meeting that morning, and noticed a huge security detail – certainly more than the two police cruisers that Wilton Manors’ Finest typically require to pull someone over for having a one-day-expired tag on their Mercedes.
Indeed it was an event in support of the Equality Act, and the featured speakers were Wilton’s Congressman, Ted Deutsch, Congresswoman (and former DNC Chair) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. (Though for starters I was surprised Debbie didn’t burst into flames as she entered a room containing more than a few “Bernie Bros”.)
For those unaware, the Equality Act is a piece of legislation that would go far beyond ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include the LGBT community. Passage of the Equality Act would be a milestone in protection for our community, and would supersede any discriminatory legislation at the individual state level.
Leader Pelosi made a telling comment in her brief Q&A. She said words to the effect of “as bad as the Trump Administration is on LGBT issues, the Republicans in Congress are far worse.”
Yeah. Let that one sink in for a few minutes.
Far. Worse. Than. Trump.
The Equality Act currently has more than 190 co-sponsors in the House. The Congress-people “think” there are more supporters who have not co-sponsored, including some Republicans. Which is certainly good news, and don’t get me wrong, I am all in favor of passing this.
To see this at the Revolution – three prominent members of Congress, including the Democratic Leader – endorsing such a sweeping bill, is nothing short of miraculous to those of us who weathered a much less salutary time.
But revolutions on occasion will run face first into reality.
Leader Pelosi acknowledged that not only were the Congressional Repubs much worse than the so-called President, but that opening CRA64 to amendment could lead to all sorts of legislative mischief from the Republicans. Suppose for example that the GOP saw this as an opportunity to add “religious freedom” language to CRA64 – protecting the LGBT community and the other groups under that Act’s umbrella, except when the discrimination was due to a “sincerely held religious belief.”
It would render the legislation worthless.
The further complication is how the Equality Act could even get a vote, let alone be passed and signed, any time in the foreseeable future. Currently the only way it could get a House vote would be through a discharge petition – where 218 members would have to agree to bypass the committee structure and bring the bill directly to the floor. Then there is the matter of the Senate – also GOP-controlled – where 60 votes are needed to pass any substantive legislation.
Then on to the White House, where its fate would be uncertain at best.
Bear in mind that when the Democrats had full control of Congress, including a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and the Presidency, Congress would not even pass ENDA – a much less sweeping piece of legislation.
So, yes, what I saw at the Revolution scared me, and still scares me. I understand the need for HRC and the Democrats to have a goal for our community that would inspire us to work for change. And also, truth be told, to keep the “Gay-T-M” open and the money flowing.
But what happens in the meantime? How many regulations are being modified in the dead of night to our detriment? How many more bills will the House and the various red states pass against us? How many of us will lose our health insurance, and be denied other essential services as we fundraise?
I don’t want to see the dream of the Equality Act be crushed by the real and ongoing nightmare we face in DC right now. Until there are more members of Congress who stand opposed to the far-right Christian agenda of “God’s Own Party,” there are more risks than opportunities.
The sunset of my life approaches. The road ahead is likely shorter than the road behind. I do not want my last life’s work to “bear witness” in the way Victor Klemperer did in the 1930s. Before battles can be won, past victories cannot be lost. And if, at the moment, the Revolution requires fighting for preservation every single day, well bring it on.