Sunday, November 10, 2013

ENDA times

It’s been quite a week: The Illinois legislature passed marriage equality, the US Senate passed ENDA and the Hawaii legislature has all but given the final nod to marriage equality in that state. All of this came in the week of the first anniversary of the 2012 elections in which voters for the first time endorsed marriage equality at the ballot box.

The only people who don’t seem to know that we’ve passed the tipping point are the opponents of marriage equality. Actually, that’s not true: Many of our adversaries admit the game is all over, bar the shouting, but they can’t actually surrender, not when there’s still money to be made by fighting against the civil and human rights of LGBT people.

Still, the momentum is clearly in the direction of justice and freedom, and it’s picking up speed. After a string of electoral defeats from 2006 onwards, could anyone have predicted that nearly one-third of US states would have marriage equality in only seven years? And yet we’ll officially hit that mark soon, 40% in the next year and probably 50% within around two years.

So, I’m convinced that marriage equality will almost certainly arrive in all 50 US states far more quickly than any of us realises, probably by US Supreme Court decision, though by then a majority of US states will probably already have marriage equality.

Marriage equality is only one battle, of course, because in 29 US states it’s perfectly legal to fire someone—or refuse to hire them in first place—simply because they’re LGBT. That’s what ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) is designed to help fix, and that’s why the radical right is fighting so hard against it: They WANT to be able to discriminate against LGBT people.

The Republican “Leadership” in the US House is, for now, intransigent on ENDA: They won’t allow it to see the light of day, even through the Senate passed it. I wrote the other day about how US House Speaker John Boehner is a coward for not bringing up the bill, but he’s one thing more: Incredibly stupid.

Unlike Boehner and other House “leaders”, a few Republicans see where this issue is headed. Ten Senate Republicans defied the extremist base of their own party and voted in favour of ENDA. They should be applauded, not just for their vote, great though that was, but also for finally standing up to the extremists.

The extremists in the Republican Party—the Dinosaur Wing of the party—are hopelessly out of touch with voters, particularly young voters. Their crusades against abortion and LGBT rights are driving young voters away from a party some of them might vote for otherwise. Kerry Eleveld wrote about this in an article on Salon, “Anti-gay bigots are getting their clocks cleaned”. So the question, really, is this: Can the Republican Party change with the times, or will their Dinosaur Wing lead them to extinction?

In the Senate debate on ENDA, even notably anti-gay Republicans like Marco Rubio said nothing. They understand politics. The only Republican to preach the extremists’ bigotry was the creepy septuagenarian Republican US Senator from Indiana, Dan Coats, who has been a far right, vociferously anti-gay religious extremist his entire political career. He’d go down with the GOP ship, but other Republicans are more focused on politics in the real world. Heck, even the Mormons—the architects of the defeat of Hawaii’s marriage equality in the 1990s and the driving force behind California’s anti-gay Propostion 8 in 2008—have learned some lessons and actually worked to help get the US Senate to pass ENDA, and five of seven Mormon US Senators vote for ENDA.

Here’s the real kicker, though: Fairness and justice for LGBT Americans will spread throughout the USA regardless of what the Dinosaur Wing of the Republican Party says or does. By opposing it, the only thing they’ll achieve is to hasten their own political defeat, while their fellow Republicans who embrace the future will survive just fine, thank you very much.

So, while this was a very good week for those who support fairness and equality, there’ll be plenty more weeks like this in the next few years—and probably some that are even better. THIS is the new reality of the times. Good.

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