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The least he could do:

In a brief and perfunctory prepared statement, read carefully from a script, President Obama just signed an order a presidential memorandum directing federal departments to grant some benefits to employees' same-sex partners requesting federal departments to review over the next 90 days whether they can grant some benefits to employees' same-sex partners under federal law. The presidential memorandum itself is here. The new benefits would include things like sick leave for partners, the use of medical facilities, access to long-term care benefits, and instruction in foreign languages, if such benefits are otherwise available to spouses.

Federal law (5 USC 8901) blocks the Office of Personnel Management from granting same-sex couples the most important things — like health benefits. Broader relief will come only through the repeal of DOMA or, for federal employees specifically, through the proposed Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. Obama reiterated that he supports both goals. He also promised that he will work "tirelessly" in the "days and years to come" to achieve them. A few days ago, Obama's liaison to the gay community said that action on anything significant is a long way off.

Interestingly, Obama's rhetoric was at odds with his own Justice Department's brief, filed late last week, defending the constitutionality of DOMA. Obama called DOMA "discriminatory," though he never said on what grounds he thinks it's discriminatory. His DOJ last week maintained that DOMA doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation or sex, the two most obvious ways in which one might think it discriminatory. I may have missed it, but Obama never used the words "gay" or "lesbian" or "gay couples/families," only the more neutral and palatable "same-sex partners" and the esoteric "LGBT."

Obama also asserted that DOMA "interferes with states' rights," presumably because it changes the historical rule that federal benefits to spouses are available based on a state's own definition of marriage. This allowed states to define marriage for themselves, even if other states define it differently. But last week, the DOJ remarkably asserted that when it comes to same-sex marriages — and such marriages alone — the usual federal presumption means that objecting states would be forced to subsidize gay unions in other states. In other words, the DOJ argued that respecting "states' rights" means not recognizing gay marriages under state law.

The DOJ brief has been subjected to intense criticism over the past few days. But Obama made no mention of that squalid document in his statement today. Will it be withdrawn or modified?

With his back-pedalling on DADT, no action on DOMA, nothing done to lift the HIV travel ban, nothing ventured to allow same-sex partners to immigrate, and employment protection and even a useless hate crimes bill stalled in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, lots of Obama's strong gay-rights supporters are becoming restive. Obama has been neither the moral nor the political leader they expected. It's still early and he's had a lot on his plate. But presidents always have more pressing matters to attend. And if history is any guide, he's now at the height of his political power. Today's action was, it seems, the least he could do.

UPDATE: Nan Hunter has a typically smart post on the president's action today. It's basically a bare-bones instruction to executive departments to take action in the future. Could have been issued months ago, but it's timed to throw a sop to some upset supporters.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The least he could do:
  2. Fierce advocacy:
Randy R. (mail):
"Federal law blocks the Office of Personnel Management from granting same-sex couples the most important things -- like health benefits. "

Actually, some lawyers argue that this is not true. From Americablog:

"I've talked to several gay lawyers, including Richard Socarides who worked in the White House, and they say that it is patently untrue that DOMA prevents gay federal employees, or anyone else, from getting health benefits. President Obama could have granted full health benefits to domestic partners - not to spouses, not based on civil unions, but to "domestic partners" - and DOMA would not have prevented it, according to the lawyers I've spoken with. Here's why: DOMA prohibits granting benefits based on marriage, it does not prohibit granting benefits overall. Thus, you define a standard that isn't marriage, such as domestic partnerships as defined by, say, the amount of time spent dating, living together, comingling funds, etc. Had Obama simply said we will give health benefits to the domestic partners, straight and gay, of all federal employees, and given a definition of domestic partner that does not include marriage of civil unions, he could have done it."

DC: Federal agencies are limited to providing health benefits to “spouses” and child dependents under 5 USC 8901.
6.17.2009 7:29pm
Lior:
Conceivably Obama considers DOMA discriminatory in the everyday sense (the issue in any public policy debate) but nevertheless not "un-Constitutionally discriminatory" (the proper framing of the issue before the Federal court).

DC: Certainly there’s a difference between what is objectionable on policy grounds and on constitutional grounds. But the DOJ’s brief does not make that distinction. As I explained in the linked post, it took the position that as a matter of logic the limitation of marriage to one man and one woman is not discrimination against homosexuals because homosexuals are free to marry persons of the opposite sex. Of course, it also takes the view that if DOMA *were* sexual orientation discrimination it would not be constitutionally objectionable.
6.17.2009 7:44pm
AJK:
What is this HIV travel ban of which you speak?
6.17.2009 7:55pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Obama's rhetoric was at odds with his own Justice Department's brief, filed late last week, defending the constitutionality of DOMA
The two would only be "at odds" if Obama had said that DOMA was unconstitutional. There's no contradiction in opposing a law one believes to be constitutional.

DC: See above.
6.17.2009 8:03pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
I have to say that the citations to Richard Socarides, whose position in the Clinton Administration was not a legal one, and who has offered no explanations (so far as I know) of WTF was up with Clinton's signing DOMA in the first place, don't strike me as very persuasive.

Also, if Obama began extending health benefits based on the amount of time spent living together and commingling of funds, I'm totally moving back in with my college friend who works at State. Sure, neither of is gay, but so long as the government doesn't check on where we sleep (or with whom else we might be sleeping), health benefits without legal commitment, squee!

At the point that Obama gives benefits to couples who *could* get married and don't, the anti-SSM brigade actually will have a rational argument for how marriage is being diluted.
6.17.2009 8:06pm
rosetta's stones:
Holder throws another constituency under the bus.

That bus's axle is gonna break, in a minute here.
6.17.2009 8:06pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
Also, re: this meme that the president must personally agree with everything stated by his DOJ: Bush signed McCain-Feingold *saying* that he thought some of it was unconstitutional but that the Supreme Court would clear that up. He then sent Ted Olson to argue for the constitutionality of the whole thing in McConnell v. FEC (while Ken Starr argued for the unconstitutionality). It is not some innovation on Obama's part to have his DOJ defend the constitutionality of a law with which he disagrees. Sheesh.
6.17.2009 8:08pm
JCC:

"squalid document"


Well, if it's so squalid... can we get some discussion on the merits? Emotional outrage doesn't count as a response here.
6.17.2009 8:10pm
Cornellian (mail):
This is a baby step positively Clintonian in its timidity and rushed out only when big name gay donors started bailing on a $1,000 a plate fundraiser. Count me unimpressed.
6.17.2009 8:12pm
resh (mail):
Spot on, Cornellian. Barney Frank had Obama by the balls, so to speak, if only for a moment, and needed to not walk away empty handed. Gay cash is gold.
6.17.2009 8:34pm
Constantin:
Obama has been neither the moral nor the political leader they expected.

I don't think this view is limited to gay Americans. I'm sure the AmeriCorps IG, much of Israel, Muslim women stuck in veils by threats of death, and about sixty million Iranians would agree.

Being president is a hard job. But when you say you're going to waltz in and make everything better almost solely because of your staggering intelligence and hypnotic charisma and majestic bearing, people expect a little more than the usual log rolling.
6.17.2009 8:44pm
Steve:
It is not some innovation on Obama's part to have his DOJ defend the constitutionality of a law with which he disagrees.

No, it is not an innovation, but it was a choice, just like Bush had a choice about how to handle McCain-Feingold. Bush wasn't opposed enough to the law to fight it any more than he did. If I hated McCain-Feingold, I could certainly be upset with Bush for defending its constitutionality in court.
6.17.2009 8:48pm
Randy R. (mail):
PGOF: "Sure, neither of is gay, but so long as the government doesn't check on where we sleep (or with whom else we might be sleeping), health benefits without legal commitment, squee!"

Which, of course, is one of the main reasons why domestic partners is a poor substitute for SSM. People often often ask, if civil unions or domestic partnerships offer all the same benefits of marriage, why do you gays want marriage? Your argument is therefore a strong rebuke.

Make it simple: Marriage for all, and get rid of DPs and civil unions. That way, it avoids the exact issue you raise.

Steve: :No, it is not an innovation, but it was a choice:

"Xactly. And he didn't have to raise specious arguments, like SSM will cost money, so it's reasonable for the gov't to ban it. (Note: The Congressional Budget Office did a report that stated that SSM will result in a net gain to the US treasury). Additionally, they didn't have to cite to decades old case law that referenced incest and pedophilia. That's just insulting, and why we view it as a squalid document.

AJK: "What is this HIV travel ban of which you speak?"

If you are HIV poz and wish to travel to the US, you are banned from the country. The US is alone among almost all other countries in this respect. IT's a holdover from when Jesse Helms was Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and wanted to make life as difficult as possible for gays.
6.17.2009 9:01pm
JohnO (mail):
What's inconsistent about defending a law you believe is constitutional while being committed to its repeal?
6.17.2009 9:11pm
AJK:

If you are HIV poz and wish to travel to the US, you are banned from the country. The US is alone among almost all other countries in this respect. IT's a holdover from when Jesse Helms was Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and wanted to make life as difficult as possible for gays.


I'm having trouble seeing how this is either a problem or a gay rights issue?
6.17.2009 9:13pm
Danny (mail):

What's inconsistent about defending a law you believe is constitutional while being committed to its repeal?


I think two things happened.

1. If the brief had just said "we are defending the law as it is" without further explanation or just technical legal justifications, probably there would have been no reaction. But it went much further than necessary and was viewed as gratuitously insulting.

2. It was the last straw with Obama. This had been building up for a while. So moderate, so cautious, so gradualist on so many issues he finally tipped into being viewed as such a pussy or possibly even complicit with everything he campaigned against.

I am offended by Obama, but my feeling is actually now mostly one of relief. I no longer suspect, but I know I am dealing with a weasel. I no longer feel forced to hold my nose and vote for the Democrats - I now can have NOTHING do with them. I feel like a true independent now, a genuine second class citizen and émigré vs. the entire US one-party system. My advice to gays: move abroad, don't pay a penny in US taxes, no more voting, or else maybe one of the little third-party candidates.
6.17.2009 9:35pm
AJK:

My advice to gays: move abroad


Yeah, that'll show them.
6.17.2009 9:41pm
Cornellian (mail):
I no longer suspect, but I know I am dealing with a weasel. I no longer feel forced to hold my nose and vote for the Democrats - I now can have NOTHING do with them.

I'm somewhat more forgiving in that I think Obama really does support equal rights for gay people, I just don't think he or anyone around him feels any urgency to act on that sentiment. It's just not a major priority with them. It's possible that will change over time. I wasn't a Democrat to begin with, which probably is part of the reason I'm not as disappointed as you are.
6.17.2009 9:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
1. IT's a gay rights issue because Jesse Helme made is a gay rights issue. He wanted to keep 'the gays' out of the US. That was his stated purpose. Secondly, many (but not all) people who are HIV poz are in fact gay.

2. It's a problem because there is no reason to single out HIV poz for an absolute ban. There are many other communicable disease out there, many that are even sexually transmitted, but none of them trigger a ban. If you think we should keep people out of the country who have any STD, then at least that would be consistent.

3. Just last week, several AIDS researchers from Canada were banned from attending an AIDS conference in the US because they were poz. They couldn't even be here for the conference. What could possibly be the benefit in keeping people out of the country who might actually help us deal with it?

4. Many gay people have partners in other countries, and those partner are poz. This ban means that either the US citizen must move to the other country, or they break up the relationship. (It's rather difficult to commit to a lifelong union when the couple live on different continents).

5. Any child who is HIV is prohibited from being adopted into a US family. Not necessarily a gay issue, but it's a problem nonetheless.
6.17.2009 9:42pm
Danny (mail):

Being president is a hard job. But when you say you're going to waltz in and make everything better almost solely because of your staggering intelligence and hypnotic charisma and majestic bearing, people expect a little more than the usual log rolling.


Well that's the irony. Bush was an idiot, he had positively wicked ideas, but one thing he was not was a narcissist. He had a destructive agenda but he applied it ruthlessly and according to his own principles, with little vanity concerning his poll numbers.
6.17.2009 9:45pm
cmr:


1. If the brief had just said "we are defending the law as it is" without further explanation or just technical legal justifications, probably there would have been no reaction. But it went much further than necessary and was viewed as gratuitously insulting.


The only reason people say that is because it made official most of the secular anti-gay-marriage arguments gay marriage supporters have poo-pooed for years. When their guy makes those arguments, it's "insulting" but really, it's just they see gay marriage isn't going to be easily implemented as they think.

2. It was the last straw with Obama. This had been building up for a while. So moderate, so cautious, so gradualist on so many issues he finally tipped into being viewed as such a pussy or possibly even complicit with everything he campaigned against.


This is pure crap, to be frank. He's the freaking leader of the free world. Why should he waste his time alienating people so 1/3 of 3% can call their relationship married?

I am offended by Obama, but my feeling is actually now mostly one of relief. I no longer suspect, but I know I am dealing with a weasel. I no longer feel forced to hold my nose and vote for the Democrats - I now can have NOTHING do with them. I feel like a true independent now, a genuine second class citizen and émigré vs. the entire US one-party system. My advice to gays: move abroad, don't pay a penny in US taxes, no more voting, or else maybe one of the little third-party candidates.


Vote Green, or vote Republican. Or don't vote at all.
6.17.2009 9:46pm
Danny (mail):

Many gay people have partners in other countries, and those partner are poz. This ban means that either the US citizen must move to the other country, or they break up the relationship.


Even if neither is HIV positive, you still face the same choice - no immigration benefits for a foreign boyfriend or spouse. That's how I ended up in Europe
6.17.2009 9:46pm
JDS:
I wish my girlfriend and I could get benefits like that without having to file married joint or separate federal tax returns! What a deal!
6.17.2009 9:50pm
cmr:
Randy R.

1. IT's a gay rights issue because Jesse Helme made is a gay rights issue. He wanted to keep 'the gays' out of the US. That was his stated purpose. Secondly, many (but not all) people who are HIV poz are in fact gay.


So it's enough of the gay community for it to be a "gay issue" to the extent that we feel sorry for them and they get to be victims, but it's not enough of a gay issue that they deserve any criticism for fostering a culture of promiscuity and unprotected sex? OK.
6.17.2009 9:51pm
Danny (mail):

The only reason people say that is because it made official most of the secular anti-gay-marriage arguments gay marriage supporters have poo-pooed for years.


Obama was raised by an agnostic woman and he publicly supported same-sex marriage in the 1990s when no one did. It's the hypocrisy - he's not a Republican or Christian right guy who would actually believe this stuff. He's thinking about his poll numbers that's all. That's why it's more infuriating to get cowardice from Democrats than open, nasty but honest bigotry from Republicans
6.17.2009 9:52pm
Danny (mail):

This is pure crap, to be frank. He's the freaking leader of the free world. Why should he waste his time alienating people so 1/3 of 3% can call their relationship married?


But it's not limited to gay issues. On health care, on Iraq, on the torture issue, on the bail-out with blank checks to the banks, he is starting to look like a pussy to the left. The gay issue adds a lot to that narrative
6.17.2009 10:08pm
MarkField (mail):

No, it is not an innovation, but it was a choice, just like Bush had a choice about how to handle McCain-Feingold. Bush wasn't opposed enough to the law to fight it any more than he did. If I hated McCain-Feingold, I could certainly be upset with Bush for defending its constitutionality in court.


If I ran the Justice Department (paging Dr. Seuss), I'd take the view that every Administration is bound by the "faithfully execute" clause to provide a defense for all laws. Within that constraint, though, I see no problem with (a) an Administration telling the court that it believes the law is unconstitutional; and (b) refusing to make weak or immoral arguments.
6.17.2009 10:25pm
Volokh Groupie:

This is pure crap, to be frank. He's the freaking leader of the free world. Why should he waste his time alienating people so 1/3 of 3% can call their relationship married?



I understand you need political capital to pass less favored legislation like that on healthcare but I truly hope that Obama isn't treating gay rights' issues as an afterthought because of potential negative repercussions on his poll numbers.

First, the poll numbers aren't that anti gay marriage and tend to be favorable towards a number of other gay rights' issues. It's not obvious to me that it would cost Obama that much political capital. Public Opinion Graph on Gay Right issues

Secondly, if Obama doesn't want to 'waste' political capital on gay issues at a time when he has approval ratings in the 60's and significant majorities in both chambers of congress when will he? If history holds true we'll probably see both the dem majorities and his poll numbers regress to ~50%. Doesn't it make it even more likely that that this 'wasting political capital' argument will be even more applicable then? Will these issues be too costly then because of the capital needed for a second SCOTUS nomination or action on global warming?

Finally, a number of these issues are about pretty basic rights for a discriminated against minority. Even if you want to hedge on the issue of marriage, I don't understand the hold up on other issues. Those more basic issues should be higher up on a list of priorities than they appear to be because of their fundamental nature.
6.17.2009 10:34pm
Danny (mail):
I know - we still have no law against paying gays less than straights - while Bulgaria does.
6.17.2009 10:38pm
ShelbyC:

I know - we still have no law against paying gays less than straights


Well,we have no law against paying blondes less than redheads either...
6.17.2009 11:03pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
Finally, a number of these issues are about pretty basic rights for a discriminated against minority. Even if you want to hedge on the issue of marriage, I don't understand the hold up on other issues. Those more basic issues should be higher up on a list of priorities than they appear to be because of their fundamental nature.
I am not quite all the way to backing gay marriage yet, but I think it absurd that the government discriminates this way. Why should married people essentially get more for doing the same job with the government? And why not give the benefits?
6.17.2009 11:08pm
Danny (mail):

Well,we have no law against paying blondes less than redheads either...



Exactly. I think we can agree that if two human beings are going the same exact job with the same quality, they should be paid the same number of dollars / euros / whatever. The only thing blocking this principle is people's stupid excuses to discriminate - race, gender, whatever. If employers had picked hair color as a reason to pay some people less then we would need a law. Employers are after a buck and they will take any excuse to exploit people that they can find. We come up with pay discrimination laws to thwart this impulse of theirs. Gays are still left out of the umbrella.
6.17.2009 11:19pm
Danny (mail):
going = doing, I meant to say
6.17.2009 11:20pm
ShelbyC:

Employers are after a buck and they will take any excuse to exploit people that they can find. We come up with pay discrimination laws to thwart this impulse of theirs. Gays are still left out of the umbrella.



I'm not sure I understand. Aren't tbey motivated to pay everyone less equally? I'm not sure why anyone would pay someone more just because they're straight. And whay should the threshold be to being included under the "umbrella"? Do you know of any evidence of gay folks being systematically payed less?
6.17.2009 11:25pm
Danny (mail):
Yeah - I got paid $9 / hour versus $12 / hour for straight people in my first job. Basically everyone started at $9 and then within the first weeks everyone who was straight got a promotion, gays no. They knew they were straight because if you spend weeks next to a straight guy he will talk about his girlfriend and/or kids so he gets the promotion, a gay won't. The boss told me he had limited resources and so had to give more to families or people who could have a family one day.
6.17.2009 11:31pm
David Hardy (mail) (www):
In my bureaucratic days (1980s) I was told there was a specific procedure for Justice to follow if it did not wish to defend -- it involved notice to both Judiciary Committees, as I recall. I don't recall if that was statute or Justice regulation, and it might have been changed since, but at least back then Justice did not have to defend any statute or administrative action.

(It came to my attention because Justice threatened to refuse to defend one of my agency's actions. We called their bluff and, in fact, won the case on the merits).
6.17.2009 11:32pm
Putting Two and Two...:

This is a baby step positively Clintonian in its timidity and rushed out only when big name gay donors started bailing on a $1,000 a plate fundraiser. Count me unimpressed.


Except that this baby step has been in the works for months, no doubt with a delivery date of now, in the middle of Gay Pride month.

But don't let reality get in the way of scoring some political point.
6.17.2009 11:41pm
ShelbyC:
Danny, wow. Amazing a guy like that could stay in business
6.17.2009 11:46pm
Oren:

What's inconsistent about defending a law you believe is constitutional while being committed to its repeal?

It would require a proper attitude of deference to Congress as being responsible for such general policy. For a President to acknowledge this would be the end of the pretension to an imperial presidency.

We can't have that, now can we?
6.17.2009 11:55pm
Stephen Clark (mail):
Well, I was one of Obama's strong gay-rights supporters, and I'll go further than Dale. The brief was a betrayal, and today's insulting crumbs don't begin to undo it.

As one commenter pointed out, Obama only said that DOMA is "discriminatory," not that it is "unconstitutional." For me, it is absolutely unacceptable for a progressive president to believe that sexual orientation-based classifications are not entitled to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as the DOJ argued.

If Obama has said DOMA was "unconstitutional," he would have gone far toward healing the breach. But he didn't. Harmonizing the brief with his public statement, he believes that massively discriminating against gay people--to the tune of a thousand legal rigts and benefits--is perfectly constitutional. That is appalling.
6.17.2009 11:56pm
Oren:

First, the poll numbers aren't that anti gay marriage and tend to be favorable towards a number of other gay rights' issues. It's not obvious to me that it would cost Obama that much political capital.

These two sentences don't go together -- political capital has nothing to do with poll numbers and everything to do with swing votes on various matters. It has to do with how much the members of your coalition will tolerate it.

As it stands, there are far too many vulnerable Dems from swing districts/States to force them to vote on repealing DOMA. If they vote for repeal, they will lose the general and if they vote to uphold, they will be savaged in the primary and then lose in the general. Jim Webb, John Tester -- these are the guys that have the most to fear here.
6.17.2009 11:59pm
Oren:

But he didn't. Harmonizing the brief with his public statement, he believes that massively discriminating against gay people--to the tune of a thousand legal rigts and benefits--is perfectly constitutional. That is appalling.


Appalling, maybe, but also true. For 100 years the appalling institution of slavery was, as you put it, "perfectly" constitutional. A President that stood up in 1820 and said "I oppose slavery but I have no right to march into Georgia and free the slaves" would be just as right then as Obama is today in saying that only Congress, if it wills, can repeal DOMA.

The Constitution expressly allows for all manner of abominable, appalling and downright evil things. It is assumed that when those things happen, we will elect a Congress that will fix things. If you have ire, direct it at them ( I suppose this is the downside of being the Imperial President -- somehow everyone imagines that you can fix their problems).
6.18.2009 12:03am
Danny (mail):

Danny, wow. Amazing a guy like that could stay in business



I know! What an a**hole. Anyway thanks for recognizing it
6.18.2009 12:17am
JCC:
Stephen Clark wrote:

For me, it is absolutely unacceptable for a progressive president to believe that sexual orientation-based classifications are not entitled to heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause, as the DOJ argued.


Well, according to Baker v. Nelson, they aren't. You want to argue to overturn that precedent then fine... but you need to come up with something more persuasive than "I'm pissed".
6.18.2009 12:21am
Brian G (mail) (www):
Let's look at the realities. Blacks and gays pretty much universally voted for Obama. Blacks vote overwhelmingly against gay marriage. There are millions more blacks who vote than there are gays. And that's that.

Look, DADT is a joke, and I say that as an "evil" right-wing Republican. I appreciate anyone who voluntarily wants to defend me, my family, and my country, and I don't care one whit about who they choose to love. If Obama and the Democratic Congress really wanted to, they could end DADT right now. That they refuse to should tell you all you need to know.

Of course, the gay communtiy will run to the polls to vote for Dems in 2010 and Obama again in 2012, and they know it. So why should they care about what the gay community wants?
6.18.2009 1:34am
Cornellian (mail):
Blacks and gays pretty much universally voted for Obama. Blacks vote overwhelmingly against gay marriage. There are millions more blacks who vote than there are gays. And that's that.

If Blacks based their votes on the same-sex marriage issue they'd be 90-10 Republicans instead of 90-10 Democrats. But they're not and they don't.
6.18.2009 1:45am
Cornellian (mail):

Of course, the gay communtiy will run to the polls to vote for Dems in 2010 and Obama again in 2012, and they know it. So why should they care about what the gay community wants?


Because in between elections they have fund raisers, and just because a voter doesn't see any better alternatives doesn't mean he'll show up to vote.
6.18.2009 1:47am
Cornellian (mail):
Why should he waste his time alienating people so 1/3 of 3% can call their relationship married?

Jews are only about 3% of the population - should a President care what Jewish people think?
6.18.2009 1:50am
Volokh Groupie:


These two sentences don't go together -- political capital has nothing to do with poll numbers and everything to do with swing votes on various matters. It has to do with how much the members of your coalition will tolerate it.

As it stands, there are far too many vulnerable Dems from swing districts/States to force them to vote on repealing DOMA. If they vote for repeal, they will lose the general and if they vote to uphold, they will be savaged in the primary and then lose in the general. Jim Webb, John Tester -- these are the guys that have the most to fear here.



You're right that swing votes weigh heavily in discussions of 'political capital' but saying that poll numbers have nothing to do with capital is a bit of an exaggeration. With his personal popularity Obama is a pretty big boon for any politician fighting a tough reelection fight and votes on a few gay rights issues probably can be offset by some of the advantages his support gives. In any event there are two things that come to mind in your discussion of vulnerable swing staters. Webb and Tester are both 2012 senators so they're a bit off. However, there are other senators like Bennet and Lincoln (and a bunch of reps) who probably fit your point. However, in the house I think to a certain extent that such votes can probably be offset by Obama's popularity and the advantage in the senate is so great that once Franken gets seated and once you count a couple non dem votes you can peel off (like Snowe/Collins/Lieberman) you still probably have enough votes to stave off a filibuster.

More importantly though is that we're not talking about a gay marriage vote or even necessarily a full scale repeal of DOMA. Amending DOMA to allow full spousal benefits is a less politically contentious (according to the polling) act and is a pretty basic and overdue step in my view. I remember Dodd saying something about it when he was campaigning and I don't see why steps like that can't be taken as they probably won't exhaust Obama's political capital (and don't have the same effect on senators/reps as gay marriage/wholescale repeal of DOMA) and yet still would yield important improvements.
6.18.2009 2:18am
Perseus (mail):
Jews are only about 3% of the population - should a President care what Jewish people think?

"F*ck the Jews! They didn't vote for us."--(allegedly) James A. Baker.
6.18.2009 3:57am
Ricardo (mail):
So it's enough of the gay community for it to be a "gay issue" to the extent that we feel sorry for them and they get to be victims, but it's not enough of a gay issue that they deserve any criticism for fostering a culture of promiscuity and unprotected sex? OK.

Let us know when you tire of beating up straw men. Or can you point to a specific individual who holds both views at the same time? Dan Savage -- a very popular gay sex columnist -- for instance, does consider HIV a predominantly gay issue and does criticize promiscuous sex within the gay community. Here's a quote:

The story tells us that new HIV prevention education campaigns targeting young gay men are planned. Of course. It’s the same course of action taken—or recommended—the last four or five times this story was written. But so long as gay health educators refuse to level with gay men—there’s no “moderating” your meth use; you can suck too much [bleep]; anal sex isn’t a first-date activity and having anal sex with hordes of anonymous partners, even with condoms, is sure-fire way of contracting HIV—these new campaigns won’t have much of an impact.
6.18.2009 6:32am
Lior:
Prof. Carpenter: Perhaps I'm completely confused, but if so please correct my misunderstandings.

I don't think anyone disputes the fact that DOMA has a disparate impact on gays, especially since that is the stated legislative intent. In that sense it is discriminatory. However, as far as I can tell that has not been the constitutional question, since sexual orientation has not been considered a division along which it is constitutionally prohibited to discriminate.

Rather, the legal dispute is whether DOMA is sex-based discrimination, which is an implicit backdrop against which we should read the DOJ brief. It is against that backdrop that the DOJ makes its argument that "you may only marry someone of the opposite sex" is not discriminatory. Whatever else we may say DOMA obviously applies to men and women in the same way.

Believing at the same time that DOMA has disparate impact on gays, but is not discriminatory as a matter of logic in a context where only sex-based discrimination is cognizable is not inconsistent.

----------------

I don't have a strong opinion on whether DOMA is in fact constitutional or not. It's a complicated question of constitutional interpretation (does the constitution prohibit discrimination against gays? is the fundamental right the "right to marry" or the "right to marry Jane Doe"?). I do have strong opinions on its (lack of) wisdom, but this is a separate question.
6.18.2009 7:01am
Reality (mail):
I am so sick of Americans and their sense of entitlement. I am also growing very tired of gays and their silly demands that straight people unquestioningly accept everything about their lifestyles. They don't get it. Obama's giving them exactly what they want: the government stays out of their lives and their bedrooms. He just granted the partners of gay federal employees benefits. But that's not enough for them. Maybe they don't know (or care to know, as this would make their demands untenable) that straight federal employees may get benefits for their domestic partners, but they must pay full price for them; there is no government sharing of the cost.

Maybe when gays grow up and stop acting like petulant children they will be taken more seriously. As for gay marriage, they must accept that there have been 30 state referenda on this issue and they have all been overwhelmingly rejected by the voters. Rejected not just by whacked right-wing Christian soldiers, but by mainstream American and even a significant number of gays. Let them have a ceremony and call themselves "married" if they desire and certainly they must be granted some basic rights in regard to the legal aspects of their relationship. But stop asking the rest of the world to recognize such unions as marriages. The institution of marriage pre-dates history and it's ridiculous to demand that mankind redefine it just for a distinct minority.
6.18.2009 7:15am
geokstr (mail):

Danny (mail):

Danny, wow. Amazing a guy like that could stay in business

I know! What an a**hole. Anyway thanks for recognizing it

I started my career in the early 70s with a highly respected company, one that makes the "top 10 companies to work/sell for" and "best product in its industry", with the best management ratings and the highest financial ratings in its field, in every year the studies/polls have been done.

Back then I heard the same reason when they gave smaller raises to single people vs married people, and this was long before gay even became an issue.

This "people who could have a family one day" excuse though is a new one on me.
6.18.2009 7:35am
Lior:
Reality: what is it about the gay "lifestyle" is you are being forced to accept against your will?

That is exists?

You may not want to treat gay domestic partnerships like straight marriages. Where gay marriage is legal, I don't either. Here, however, society has forced gays who are in marriage-like relationships into domestic partnership rather than letting them marry. Given that, society can't turn around and claim that these people freely chose to forebear marriage and hence don't deserve the benefits. Gay and straight and domestic partnerships are simply not the same.

By the way, Jews in the US are a smaller minority than gays. If the voters overwhelmingly voted not to recognize Jewish marriages, would you also suggest we accede to the wishes of the majority?
6.18.2009 7:44am
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Lior: You seem to have completely missed your opponent's arguments. It's been a pretty public debate for quite a while now. Try to keep up.
6.18.2009 7:49am
Lior:
Daniel: Indeed Obama's DOJ is arguing that DOMA does not facially discriminate based on sexual orientation and I retract my claim in that regard. Still, I think it's consistent for them to argue in the courts that DOMA is constitutional and in Congress that it's bad law.
6.18.2009 8:11am
rick.felt:
What a suprise: of all the things that Obama could be doing for gay rights, including pushing to repeal DoMA and end DADT, he chose... something that involves the government spending money. Why, I am the picture of surprise. If you folks really want gay marriage to happen, just tell Obama that he'll get to spend $50,000,000,000 on stimulus for gay wedding planners if it gets legalized.
6.18.2009 8:44am
sham-wow:
I know a guy (a consenting adult) who whould like to marry his sister (another consenting adult).

They have a gay cousin (a consenting adult) who would like to marry his gay brother (also a consenting adult).

Can they all get benefits too?

Or has the progressive movement not yet begun fighting to undo this anachronistic taboo?

C'mon, they're all consenting adults, right? And the two gay brothers can't procreate with each other, so no risk of incest-related birth defects.

So what's the problem?
6.18.2009 8:57am
geokstr (mail):

Lior:
By the way, Jews in the US are a smaller minority than gays. If the voters overwhelmingly voted not to recognize Jewish marriages, would you also suggest we accede to the wishes of the majority?

First of all, your numbers don't work:
Jews 2.2% Jewish Population of the United States by State
GLBT 1.51% Composite U.S. Demographics

Secondly, Jewish GLBTs are already prohibited from marrying.
6.18.2009 8:57am
rarango (mail):
At the risk of being overly cynical, and strictly from a vote counting political standpoint, Obama can throw Gay Americans under the bus. Who else are they going to vote for? He's flush in cash, and doesnt really need them. Seems to me he risks antagonizing bigger voting blocs if he comes out too strongly in favor of Gay Issues.

While I am not an Obama supporter, I thought his election might at least help Gay relationships to become more mainstream and give them the legal status they deserve, but that doesnt appear its going to happen anytime soon.

My thought is to approach this issue from the standpoint of a chicago alderman--who can deliver the most votes? Obama is simply a cheap chicago-style politician--Isnt that obvious now?
6.18.2009 8:58am
rick.felt:
Obama promised a great deal during the campaign. McCain generally attacked the substance of the pledges. At the time, I though McCain was missing a good attack angle, and I think Obama's tenure so far has revealed a glaring hole in McCain's campaign strategy.

Obama had been a United States Senator since January of 2005. Since January of 2007, his party enjoyed a majority in both the House and Senate. If there were things that Obama wanted to accomplish legislatively as President, why didn't he introduce those bills himself while he was a Senator? Sure, his bills might not have gone anywhere in the GOP-controlled Senate, but that excuse vanished as of January of 2007. Bush still stood in the way from that point forward, but if DoMA is so unfair, and the present is imbued with such "fierce moral urgency," then pass the damn bill and dare Bush to be on the wrong side of history by vetoing it. On other issues, how about showing the public examples of the kind of legislation that you'd want Congress to pass when you're president? No? You'd rather avoid controversy? That's what I thought.

If you couldn't tell during the campaign that this was going to happen if Obama was elected, you started to see it in the transition. You'll recall that Obama quickly resigned his Senate seat after the election. Normally I might not think anything of it, but this was no ordinary lame-duck period. The auto-industry bailouts were being debated in Congress, and we had the bizarre spectacle of Obama urging Congress to take certain actions after giving up the opportunity to vote to help craft the bills he wanted to at least push the bills he wanted through.

I do think, though, that Obama will come through for gays if he wins a second term. The man is obsessed with his popularity, and was already talking about his second term on election night. I still believe that he's very liberal, but I also don't think that he'll ever do much to jeopardize his re-election.
6.18.2009 9:04am
rarango (mail):
Rick felt: I generally agree, except for this--Obama is a lame duck in his second term, and the congressional dems start bailing out. Look at how Bush spent his "political capital" on the social security issue. I didnt see a lot of republican support for that issue.
6.18.2009 9:09am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Berry acknowledged that some benefits announced Wednesday by Obama, such as sick leave to care for a same-sex partner, have been permitted on a case-by-case basis in the past.

“What the president is doing today is making this no longer optional. He’s making it mandatory,” Berry said.


Source : Politico

Actually.. what he's done is signed a memorandum (which unlike an Executive Order expires at the end of his term of office), directing that benefits which have in the past been granted to straight employees and sometimes (but not always) gay ones too be collated and examined, so that treatment will be made equal at some future time.

No additional benefits that haven't already been given (sometimes) will result. And there's no timetable for action to actually give anything at all, apart from a report.

However, as seen in the comments here, even this is viewed as being "too much" by some. Hopefully because they aren't aware of the memorandum's contents, or the significance of a memorandum as opposed to an executive order.
6.18.2009 9:16am
geokstr (mail):

Danny:
Exactly. I think we can agree that if two human beings are going the same exact job with the same quality, they should be paid the same number of dollars / euros / whatever. The only thing blocking this principle is people's stupid excuses to discriminate - race, gender, whatever.

No, we don't all necessarily agree.

It boils down to how to define and measure what the "...same exact job with the same quality..." means. If you define it only as the exact same amount and quality of output, without taking into account lots of intangibles, then that's a prescription for stupid personnel decisions. How well does that person get along with superiors, peers and subordinates? How presentable is that person to customers? How much seniority does one have vs another? Who displays more initiative and creativity?

It you want to call that "discrimination", so be it. Discrimination used to actually be a good word, when it meant "the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment". Then the race-mongers got hold of it and NewSpeaked it.
6.18.2009 9:21am
rosetta's stones:

Of course, the gay communtiy will run to the polls to vote for Dems in 2010 and Obama again in 2012, and they know it. So why should they care about what the gay community wants?


If a constituency votes monolithically, it shouldn't be surprised when unprincipled, careerist political hacks take the constituency for granted.

And recall the earlier discussion in here, about Edwards/Kerry specifically mentioning "lesbian daughter" in their presidential debates... a raw appeal for bigotry. Gays not just taken for granted... but used as an illegitimate campaign tool, and by their supposed benefactors, too.

Join the 15-20% of us who decide elections, and that constituency might have an impact. Right now, the constituency is powerless, and Holder just reaffirmed that fact.
6.18.2009 9:21am
rick.felt:
Slightly O/T, but I have a practical question on benefits for same-sex partners:

A lot of people, particularly those under 30, have roommates and housemates. Usually these are of the same sex. In a state that does not have same-sex marriage or civil unions, what is to prevent someone from hooking his roommate up with health benefits by claiming that they're partners?

The federal government isn't going to make them come down to the office and make out, is it?
6.18.2009 9:23am
Bart (mail):

Obama has been neither the moral nor the political leader they expected.

Join the club. It numbers in the millions.

Ask the center right Obama voters if they were voting for Trillion dollar deficits and the nationalization of the auto industry and banks.

Ask the anti war left if they were voting for a third term of W's law of war.
6.18.2009 9:24am
sham-wow:
"Ask the anti war left if they were voting for a third term of W's law of war."

W's war? Okay, but I seem to recall that our current VP and Sec of State both voted in favor of "W's war" while in the Senate.
6.18.2009 9:29am
Fat Man (mail) (www):
So, who is the rube?
6.18.2009 9:39am
Cornellian (mail):
A lot of people, particularly those under 30, have roommates and housemates. Usually these are of the same sex. In a state that does not have same-sex marriage or civil unions, what is to prevent someone from hooking his roommate up with health benefits by claiming that they're partners?


Nothing at all, just like there's nothing preventing an opposite sex couple from entering a sham marriage to get benefits, provided they're willing to keep up the bare minimum of a pretense in public.
6.18.2009 9:51am
Oren:

Secondly, Jewish GLBTs are already prohibited from marrying.

I must have hallucinated those 2 weddings then.


A lot of people, particularly those under 30, have roommates and housemates. Usually these are of the same sex. In a state that does not have same-sex marriage or civil unions, what is to prevent someone from hooking his roommate up with health benefits by claiming that they're partners?

A lot of people under 30 (myself included) have roommates of the opposite sex. What is to prevent someone from hooking up his roommate of opposite sex with health benefits by claiming that they are domestic partners?
6.18.2009 9:52am
Cornellian (mail):

First of all, your numbers don't work:
Jews 2.2% Jewish Population of the United States by State
GLBT 1.51% Composite U.S. Demographics


First of all, quoting a source that block quotes the Family Research Council isn't going to convince anyone that doesn't already agree with you. Second, even your source purports to be citing 2000 census figures of openly gay people, not the total number of gay people.
6.18.2009 9:53am
Cornellian (mail):

Obama has been neither the moral nor the political leader they expected.


I don't mind getting less than I expected from a politician - we all live in the real world of limited resources, including limited time and political capital, but I do mind active hostility towards causes the politician claimed to support while campaigning.
6.18.2009 10:02am
sham-wow:
"but I do mind active hostility towards causes the politician claimed to support while campaigning"

Like renegotiating NAFTA?
6.18.2009 10:06am
rick.felt:
Nothing at all, just like there's nothing preventing an opposite sex couple from entering a sham marriage to get benefits, provided they're willing to keep up the bare minimum of a pretense in public

Marriage involves a legal commitment. If you go back and read what I asked, I said "in a state that does not have same-sex marriage or civil unions." Telling your employer that someone to with whom you have no legal relationship is your partner is not the same as entering into a legally sanctioned marriage or civil union.

What is to prevent someone from hooking up his roommate of opposite sex with health benefits by claiming that they are domestic partners?

When private firms first started offering same-sex partner benefits, there was no gay marriage or civil unions. AFAIK, you couldn't get benefits for your live-in girlfriend; you had to get married. Gays were exempted, of course, because they couldn't get married.

I guess my question can be rephrased as: if the Federal government starts extending benefits to same-sex partners, will they extend these benefits to couples residing in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions?
6.18.2009 10:09am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
Cornellian and Oren,

Most places that offer domestic partnerships do not have them as an option for straight couples. Straight couples are required to get married, which involves a much larger legal commitment than domestic partnership does. For example, in New York and South Carolina, a married couple must have grounds to divorce (e.g. allege adultery, physical abuse, etc.) or live separately for at least a year before filing for divorce (which can be nearly impossible if one spouse cannot support himself without alimony from the other). There's a very good reason straights don't go around willy-nilly marrying their friends to give them benefits: marriage entails a lot more legal responsibility than y'all apparently realize. OTOH, if Obama says that one can obtain benefits for a "partner" without assuming all these burdens, then hell yes straights will start exploiting that.

rick.felt,

"If there were things that Obama wanted to accomplish legislatively as President, why didn't he introduce those bills himself while he was a Senator?"

Because he's not the only senator? Obama was one of the original 19 co-sponsors on the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act. The claim he did nothing in the Senate on behalf of sexual orientation equality is simply wrong.
6.18.2009 10:21am
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
Also, the Aravois-inspired claim that the DOJ brief compares SSM to incest and pedophilia is at best exaggerated, at worst an outright lie. The brief nowhere uses the words incest or pedophilia. Aravois draws his outrage from a string-cite to cases in which one state refused to recognize a marriage that was legal elsewhere.

The "incest" was a first-cousin marriage, which is actually exactly what the Vermont Supreme Court cited in FAVOR of forcing Vermont to provide marital status to same-sex couples. One argument made by the state was that doing so would create disparities among the states in marriage recognition, and the Court pointed out that Vermont recognized first-cousin marriages while states like Texas did not, yet everyone had managed with this state of affairs just fine for years. Somehow I don't recall Aravois or anyone else squawking about how horribly insulting it was to gay people for their marriages to be discussed in the same paragraph as first-cousin marriage back then.

The "pedophilia" was a 16-year-old's getting married. There's huge disparities among states regard the age at which one can marry, that recently ranged all the way from 13 to 18. My grandmother got married at 16, as was traditional at that time. Does Aravois really want to call my grandfather a pedophile?
6.18.2009 10:28am
rick.felt:
Obama was one of the original 19 co-sponsors on the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act.

Okie doke. I was unaware of that. But I wasn't claiming that "Obama did nothing in the Senate on behlaf of sexual orientation equality." I was making a general statement about whether Obama should have been believed during the campaign, based on what he did as a senator, and a specific statement about DoMA.

The legislation you mentioned actually confirms my point. Obama is doing no more as president than what he did as a senator. He tried to extend benefits as a senator, and that's what he's doing as president. He didn't try to repeal DoMA as a senator, and he's not doing that as president.
6.18.2009 10:35am
Hans Bader:
Thank you for highlighting the "useless" nature of the federal hate-crimes bill. Even many of its supporters call it a "bottom-drawer" issue. It is actually a pernicious bill that could undermine safeguards against double-jeopardy, since it dramatically expands federal jurisdiction, including in cases that have nothing to do with sexual orientation.

The Administration may be pushing the hate-crimes bill first, while holding off on more meaningful gay-rights measures, so that gays and lesbians will be so hungry for any legislation perceived as gay-friendly that they will lobby hard to pass the hate-crimes bill.

Such lobbying is a mistake. The bill is unnecessary. Even without the proposed federal hate-crimes law, the killers of Matthew Shepard and Angie Zapata received life sentences without parole -- the maximum that would be available under the proposed federal hate-crimes law.

On April 29, the House voted 249-to-175 to pass the federal hate crimes bill, which the bill's supporters explicitly want to use to prosecute people already found innocent in state court all over again in federal court. Such reprosecutions are, sadly, allowed under a Constitutional loophole known as the "dual sovereignty" doctrine, which says that state and federal governments are different sovereigns, and that double jeopardy only applies when you are prosecuted twice by the same sovereign. (This loophole was established in the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 Bartkus decision, over a stinging dissent by Justice Black).

In the past, the possibility of reprosecutions was viewed as a vice, not a virtue, and civil-rights advocates and lawmakers alike have sometimes cited this risk in opposing bills broadening the reach of federal criminal laws. But civil-rights groups now view double jeopardy as a virtue when it comes to people accused of hate crimes. They consider hate crimes so terrible that not even innocence should be a defense.

The latest example of this comes from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (a coalition of hundreds of liberal civil-rights groups including the ACLU), and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in a May 5 blog commentary entitled, "Pennsylvania Teenagers Acquitted of Hate Crime; Federal Law Needed." It approvingly quotes the General Counsel of MALDEF arguing that the federal hate-crimes bill is needed based on not-guilty verdicts like the recent acquittal in state court of teenagers accused of a hate crime against an illegal alien from Mexico: "Last week, the House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act, which will . . . give federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate. '[T] his verdict underscores the importance of the passage of this Act,' said Henry Solano, MALDEF interim president and general counsel. 'It is time for the Department of Justice to step in and bring justice to the Ramirez family and send a strong message that violence targeting immigrants will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.' The Justice Department is currently investigating whether to prosecute the two teenagers under federal civil rights statutes."

By contrast, four members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission opposed the federal hate-crimes bill in an April 29 letter, calling it a "menace to civil liberties," since its "most important effect" will be to circumvent double-jeopardy guarantees. The full U.S. Commission on Civil Rights subsequently decided to oppose the bill, and sent a letter to Senate leaders on July 16 noting its opposition.

MALDEF and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights are not alone in seeking to reprosecute people found innocent in state court. Many supporters of the hate crimes bill want to allow those found innocent to be reprosecuted in federal court. As one supporter put it, "the federal hate crimes bill serves as a vital safety valve in case a state hate-crimes prosecution fails." The claim that the justice system has "failed" when a jury returns a not-guilty verdict is truly scary and contrary to the constitutional presumption of innocence and the right to trial by jury.

But it is a view widely shared among supporters of the hate-crimes bill. Syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum pointed out in 1998 that Janet Reno, Clinton's Attorney General, backed the bill as a way of providing a federal "forum" for prosecution if prosecutors fail to obtain a conviction "in the state court."

Supporters of the hate crimes bill also see it as a way to prosecute people even in cases where the evidence is so weak that state prosecutors have decided not to prosecute. Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed for the hate crimes bill as a way to prosecute people whom state prosecutors refuse to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. To justify broadening federal hate-crimes law, he cited three examples where state prosecutors refused to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence. In each, a federal jury acquitted the accused, finding them not guilty.

Advocates of a broader federal hate-crimes law have pointed to the Duke lacrosse case as an example of where federal prosecutors should have stepped in and prosecuted the accused players -- even though the state prosecution in that case was dropped because the defendants were actually innocent, as North Carolina's attorney general conceded, and were falsely accused of rape by a woman with a history of violence (including trying to run over someone with her car) and making false accusations.

Civil libertarians like Wendy Kaminer and law professors like Gail Heriot have criticized the federal hate-crimes bill for taking advantage of a loophole in constitutional double-jeopardy protections.

The hate-crimes bill also violates constitutional federalism safeguards, such as the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Morrison (2000).

Supporters of the hate-crimes bill have all sorts of lame rationalizations for disregarding not-guilty verdicts. Hate-crimes activist Brian Levin, who testified before Congress, claims reprosecutions are needed because local jury pools are biased. NOW Legal Defense Fund told Congress that reprosecutions are appropriate if local prosecutors had “inadequate resources” or were of “questionable effectiveness.” (These rationalizations make no sense and have no principled limits: there is no evidence that state juries are more biased than the federal juries that would hear federal hate-crimes cases, or that they are typically biased; and even well-funded prosecutors have complained of having inadequate resources).

Given the politically-charged nature of many hate-crimes trials, Kimberly Potter of New York University was probably right when she told Congress back in 1998 that if the federal hate crimes bill is enacted, “the acquittal of [hate-crimes] defendants in state court will frequently trigger demands for federal prosecution.”

The bill's sponsors seldom talk about that controversial aspect of the bill, however, when addressing the general public. Instead, they trumpet the fact that the hate-crimes bill would include gays, lesbians, and transgendered people among the classes of people it covers (the existing federal hate-crimes law only covers race, but not gender, sexual orientation, or disability, and it does not reach most hate-crimes, but rather only those that involve federally-protected activities).

The bill's supporters, such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU, claim the law is needed because of the case of Angie Zapata. Zapata is a transgender woman whose lover killed her when he found out she was biologically a man. But this argument makes little sense, given that Zapata's killer was swiftly convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by a Colorado state court, which found the killer guilty of both murder and hate crimes. (The federal hate crimes bill does not provide for the death penalty, and its maximum penalty is the same one that Zapata's killer got: life without parole).

But precisely for that reason, a federal hate-crimes law is duplicative and unnecessary. Moreover, even the few states that don't have hate-crimes laws, like Wyoming, still punish hate criminals under their laws against murder and assault. The murderers of Matthew Shepard were given life sentences, which is the maximum penalty available under the federal hate-crimes bill. (Ironically, the Wyoming prosecutor wanted them to get the death penalty, while liberal groups like Lambda Legal, which supports the federal hate-crimes bill, oppose the death penalty in all cases). There is no evidence that any state gives people who commit hate crimes lesser sentences on average than people who commit similarly violent crimes not motivated by bias.

There are plenty of reasons to oppose the federal hate crimes bill, which is known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. But since it was used as a political wedge issue in the 2008 election by both the Democratic Party and President Obama, who support it, there is little doubt that it will pass Congress and be signed into law by the President.

The ACLU long opposed the loophole in Constitutional double-jeopardy protections that the bill is designed to exploit. But it switched its longstanding position in order to back the federal hate crimes bill, apparently believing that civil-liberties must be sacrificed in order to fight hate.

The ACLU's support for the federal hate-crimes bill is hypocritical for another reason: the bill seeks to circumvent double-jeopardy protections recognized by a treaty called the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the U.S. ratified (albeit with a long series of reservations, understandings, and declarations -- including one dealing with double jeopardy) in 1992. The ACLU has also long argued that the United States should not only comply with that treaty but give it a very expansive interpretation, and not seek to hide behind any reservations made by the U.S. in ratifying the treaty.

Article 14 of the treaty specifically prohibits double jeopardy, without any exception for the loophole relied on by supporters of the federal hate crimes bill, mandating that "No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again for an offence for which he has already been finally convicted or acquitted."

But the ACLU conveniently ignores the treaty when it comes to the federal hate-crimes bill, even though the ACLU has sought to stretch the treaty's language to achieve a host of liberal political goals, such as mandating "affirmative action" in the U.S. The ACLU also has argued for an expansive interpretation of the treaty to require benefits for illegal aliens. For example, the ACLU criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Hoffman Plastics case, which refused to award illegal aliens backpay against employers who fired them. The ACLU's bizarre interpretations of the treaty conflict not only with its language, but also with the longstanding practices of most ICCPR signatory countries.
6.18.2009 11:00am
MRSquared (mail):
Under DOMA, all competent adults have identical rights to marriage.
6.18.2009 11:09am
Randy R. (mail):
PGof: "The "pedophilia" was a 16-year-old's getting married. There's huge disparities among states regard the age at which one can marry, that recently ranged all the way from 13 to 18. My grandmother got married at 16, as was traditional at that time. Does Aravois really want to call my grandfather a pedophile?"

Then why did the DOJ cite the case? Your beef isn't with Aravosis, but with the fact that DOJ believes that your grandmother getting married at 16 is something that can be banned by states.

" There's a very good reason straights don't go around willy-nilly marrying their friends to give them benefits: marriage entails a lot more legal responsibility than y'all apparently realize. OTOH, if Obama says that one can obtain benefits for a "partner" without assuming all these burdens, then hell yes straights will start exploiting that."

So then the solution is quite simple: Grant marriage rights to everyone, including gays. Then every state and corporation can eliminate civil unions and domestic partners benefits. Gays will then understand the legal responsibility of marriage, and no one will be going around marrying willy-nilly.

The *only* reason the alternatives exist to marriage is because gays haven't been granted marriage but people recognize that gay couples deserve some form of protection, legal responsibility and recognition.
6.18.2009 11:19am
Randy R. (mail):
Rick: "if the Federal government starts extending benefits to same-sex partners, will they extend these benefits to couples residing in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions?"

The federal gov't cannot currently extend any marriage benefits to same sex partners under DOMA. If DOMA is repealed, and they are allowed to, and actually do, then in state where SSM exists, gay couples would have full marriage rights. In states where SSM doesn't exist, no, they wouldn't be able to get any rights because they can't get married in the first place.

At least that's my reading of the situation.
6.18.2009 11:23am
Randy R. (mail):
"First of all, quoting a source that block quotes the Family Research Council isn't going to convince anyone that doesn't already agree with you. Second, even your source purports to be citing 2000 census figures of openly gay people, not the total number of gay people."

And it certainly doesn't count the multitudes of people who are have same sex experiences but claim they are not gay, a la Larry Craig.

BTW, turns out Senator Ensign just resigned because he admitted to an affair with a congressional staffer, even though both the staffer and Ensign are married to other people. He voted in favor of DOMA -- it's just too bad that legislation was too weak to save him. Query: How can we strengthen DOMA so that married men will no longer have affairs? Too many marriages are ruined today, and DOMA just isn't working!
6.18.2009 11:27am
rick.felt:
If DOMA is repealed, and they are allowed to, and actually do, then in state where SSM exists, gay couples would have full marriage rights. In states where SSM doesn't exist, no, they wouldn't be able to get any rights because they can't get married in the first place.

Correct. But if a majority of both houses of Congress agree to repeal DoMA, the support might also be there to circumvent state laws in states that don't have SSM. The federal government doesn't have to obey the states when it comes to doling out benefits. Congress could, for example, pass a law extending benefits to any person with whom an employee has cohabited for one year.
6.18.2009 11:36am
jim (mail):
It amazes me!! Every time a new politician comes on the scene people act like the "one we can believe in" has finally arrived!! Then they are emotionally shattered when he disappoints them. Some have called politics the art of compromise, it isn't. Statesmanship is the art of compromise, politics is the art of deception, and our politicians are the best at it!!!
6.18.2009 11:58am
Brian G (mail) (www):
By the way, Professor, your headline is perfect. Obama did the least possible he could do.

I hope by now you and the rest of the gay community understands that he is not going to do anything for you other than window dressing. In fact, you are now seeing what many of us told you about the guy before he was elected.
6.18.2009 12:22pm
Bob VB (mail):
Nothing at all, just like there's nothing preventing an opposite sex couple from entering a sham marriage to get benefits, provided they're willing to keep up the bare minimum of a pretense in public.
People did just that in the military to get out of the barracks all the time. I know one guy who is now retired military and his 'wife' lives on the opposite coast and they see each other every decade whether they need to or not.

Since few employers give 'free' health care for spouses anymore what difference does it make if an employee has a spouse primarily for health care? Everyone needs to have access to health insurance somewhere, right?

I agree Obama has done as little as possible and the idea this mere memo has 'been in the works' for months is ridiculous. I would go with its been held back for months to be played as an appeasement which it was.

Mr. President, please send me emails asking for money after either DADT or DOMA is gone - its a waste of time to bother me before that.
6.18.2009 12:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
"I hope by now you and the rest of the gay community understands that he is not going to do anything for you other than window dressing. In fact, you are now seeing what many of us told you about the guy before he was elected."

Although I was a supporter of Obama, I was not nuts over him. Nonetheless, you are correct, and my eyes have seen the light of day.

In fact, I'm expecting a Sister Souljah moment any day now....

Rick: "The federal government doesn't have to obey the states when it comes to doling out benefits. Congress could, for example, pass a law extending benefits to any person with whom an employee has cohabited for one year."

I see your point. However, I think it more likely that, if Congress wants to extend benefits to gays where SSM is not allowed, they would grant benefits only to those who have either been civil unionized, or registered as a DP.
6.18.2009 12:45pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Most places that offer domestic partnerships do not have them as an option for straight couples.


Hewlett-Packard used to. At the end of 2008, they dropped domestic partnership coverage for straight people. What? No lawsuit alleging discrimination?
6.18.2009 12:59pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

A lot of people under 30 (myself included) have roommates of the opposite sex. What is to prevent someone from hooking up his roommate of opposite sex with health benefits by claiming that they are domestic partners?
Why do they have to be roommates? Right now, my wife and I are both on COBRA continuation health insurance coverage. Let's say that we and 50 or 60 other people we know in the same situation announce that we are in a group marriage with someone who has group health insurance through his employer? Shouldn't we have the same right to have our "marriage" recognized for purposes of taxes and health coverage? Isn't it just narrow-minded bigotry to require us to all live in the same house? Aren't there married couples where husband and wife have to live in different cities because of jobs?
6.18.2009 1:03pm
LarryA (mail) (www):
But it's not limited to gay issues. On health care, on Iraq, on the torture issue, on the bail-out with blank checks to the banks, he is starting to look like a pussy to the left.
Add gun control. It took nearly five years to get National Parks carry through the Bush administration. Obama signed it after six months.
Exactly. I think we can agree that if two human beings are going the same exact job with the same quality, they should be paid the same number of dollars / euros / whatever. The only thing blocking this principle is people's stupid excuses to discriminate - race, gender, whatever.
Why? The question isn’t “What is the work done?” but “What is the work worth?”

Let’s say my job is writing articles. Company A hires me to write articles for their interior publication for the purpose of keeping employees informed on company issues. Company B hires me to write articles to be competitively submitted to exterior publications for public relations/advertising that will directly influence sales of the company product.

My work product will be much more valuable in the second instance, and in any rational business model I will be better paid by Company B, who is much more concerned than Company A with attracting the best writer possible to its writing position.

The fundamental purpose of work is to produce a product people want, not to provide the worker with a paycheck.
We come up with pay discrimination laws
Which immediately run into the problem that there is really no such thing as “the same exact job with the same quality.” Pay discrimination anecdotes are rife with examples of majorities with superior skills being fired to make way for minorities with marginal or even inadequate skills.
Under DOMA, all competent adults have identical rights to marriage.
Under DOMA straights have the right to marry any person they love. Gays don’t.
6.18.2009 1:04pm
M N Ralph:
Concern trolling from professor Carpenter. Lovely.
6.18.2009 1:22pm
M N Ralph:

Rosetta Stone: Holder throws another constituency under the bus.

That bus's axle is gonna break, in a minute here.



And another conservative concern troll shows up. How many more will I find on this thread?
6.18.2009 1:25pm
M N Ralph:

By the way, Jews in the US are a smaller minority than gays.


I thought that even if there were correct, it might be wrong as to actual voters, but it's not. Per CNN 2008 exit polls, self-identified Jews were 2% of voters and self-identified gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were 4%. I would have thought there were more Jewish voters.
6.18.2009 1:52pm
rick.felt:
Per CNN 2008 exit polls, self-identified Jews were 2% of voters and self-identified gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were 4%. I would have thought there were more Jewish voters.

Yeah, but I think those bisexual numbers have to be inflated a little bit by all the college girls who think they're bi until they graduate.

And another conservative concern troll shows up. How many more will I find on this thread?

It's not concern-trolling. It's schadenfreude.
6.18.2009 1:57pm
M N Ralph:

Then why did the DOJ cite the case? Your beef isn't with Aravosis, but with the fact that DOJ believes that your grandmother getting married at 16 is something that can be banned by states.



The DOJ cited the cases in support of the proposition that the DOMA provision allowing states to not recognize other states' SSMs is constitutional. The courts have held that states need not recognize other states' marriages under the full faith and credit clause if doing so violates the state's public policy. Thus, a state prohibiting marriage between first cousins could, without violating the full faith and credit clause, refuse to recognize a valid marriage under another state's laws of first cousins. Likewise, a state prohibiting 16-year olds from marrying, could, without violating the full faith and credit clause, refuse to recognize a valid marriage under another state's laws involving a 16-year-old. If you are going to defend the constitutionality of DOMA, then the cited cases are on point. Frankly, if you are going to make the argument, it would almost be malpractice not to make the argument. Nowhere in the brief does the DOJ say homosexuality is like pedophilia or incest. That's just a load of crap to either manufacture outrage or ignorance of legal argumentation.
6.18.2009 2:17pm
M N Ralph:

BTW, turns out Senator Ensign just resigned because he admitted to an affair with a congressional staffer, even though both the staffer and Ensign are married to other people.


You got me all excited for nothing. Ensign resigned only a leadership position with the Republican caucus. I thought he resigned from the Senate. No such luck. We'll just have to use the old-fashioned way and vote him out in 2012.
6.18.2009 2:22pm
Oren:


Most places that offer domestic partnerships do not have them as an option for straight couples.

Even the places that do (CA) do not have an epidemic of fake domestic partnerships.
6.18.2009 2:58pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"Under DOMA straights have the right to marry any person they love. Gays don’t."

Unless that person doesn't want you
Or that person is your sister
Or that person is underage
Or that person is already married

This is when you say that those are different situations and probably call me a bigot or something. That argument is so old (and your presentation is so... blunt) that any response is probably a waste of bandwidth.
6.18.2009 3:03pm
Oren:


Why do they have to be roommates?

They don't, my point was that bogus relationships are no more of a problem with same-sex benefits as they are with hetero benefits. It's fraud to enter into a sham marriage and it's likewise fraud to enter into a sham domestic partnership.
6.18.2009 3:04pm
rick.felt:
It's fraud to enter into a sham marriage and it's likewise fraud to enter into a sham domestic partnership.

You're assuming that legal recognition of a same-sex relationship is required before same-sex partner benefits will be granted. If entitlement to benefits is not dependent on legal recognition of a partnership, then the potential for abuse is high.
6.18.2009 3:28pm
Randy R. (mail):
"Ensign resigned only a leadership position with the Republican caucus. I thought he resigned from the Senate."

Oh, gosh, NO! Ensign called upon Clinton to resign from office when the Lewinsky affair became public, but Ensign certainly doesn't expect to hold himself to the same standards. Remember: Morals are only for people we don't like, but they certainly don't apply to our kind.

"This is when you say that those are different situations and probably call me a bigot or something."

No, not a bigot. Not terribly bright, or disingenuous, perhaps, but not a bigot. If, after all this time, you can't wrap your head around the fact that straights can get married in all 50 states, but gays can only get married in about five, then I can feel sorry for someone that dense.
6.18.2009 3:35pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Reality: [The] institution of marriage pre-dates history

Belly-Laugh of the Day Prize.
6.18.2009 3:46pm
shawn-non-anonymous:
ShelbyC: "Do you know of any evidence of gay folks being systematically payed less?"

Military members get additional allowances for being married. (DADT and DOMA complicate this.) A legally married gay couple cannot gain this same increase in pay.

In a prior job, with well-meaning management, married individuals with children tended to get more promotions because they "needed" the money more.
6.18.2009 4:04pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

In a prior job, with well-meaning management, married individuals with children tended to get more promotions because they "needed" the money more.
That's what you get for working for a company that is socially conscious.
6.18.2009 4:43pm
Morisobela (mail) (www):
MESSAGE
6.18.2009 4:44pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Thanks for that, Randy... it's good to know that some things will always be predictable.
6.18.2009 4:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
My pleasure!
6.18.2009 5:29pm
Oren:

You're assuming that legal recognition of a same-sex relationship is required before same-sex partner benefits will be granted. If entitlement to benefits is not dependent on legal recognition of a partnership, then the potential for abuse is high.

Then hetero couples should demand the same deal.
6.18.2009 6:05pm
Danny (mail):

I thought that even if there were correct, it might be wrong as to actual voters, but it's not. Per CNN 2008 exit polls, self-identified Jews were 2% of voters and self-identified gays, lesbians, and bisexuals were 4%. I would have thought there were more Jewish voters.


Actually, unlike an ethnicity, we have some more voting power than just ourselves (maybe 4-5%). Perhaps 25% of Americans have a close family member who is gay or lesbian, and more have close friends. So if a political party demonizes or discriminates against me to the point that I would leave it, I might take 20 straight people with me
6.18.2009 6:19pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"demonize?" "discriminate?" We are still talking about Obama GRANTING rights that previously didn't exist, right?
6.18.2009 6:27pm
cmr:
Not just that, but we're talking about people being upset because he's not making it easy for them to institute something he's already said he opposes.
6.18.2009 9:08pm
Volokh Groupie:
@M N Ralph

Yes, because Prof. Carpenter never posts about Gay Marriage or gay rights related issues.

I guess you're just trying to fill the regular ol'troll position on these comment, huh?
6.18.2009 9:50pm
Cornellian (mail):
Ensign said this in 2004 when declaring his support for a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage throughout the United States:

“Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution.”

But apparently, this extremely important institution is not worth the extraordinary step of keeping his zipper up.
6.18.2009 9:59pm
Volokh Groupie:
I wonder if anyone has ever done a study on the frequency of infidelity amongst politicians vs the general public. I'd bet a power vs infidelity R value is >0.5.
6.18.2009 10:14pm
Duracomm (mail):
M N Ralph, showing his ability to say stunningly ignorant things to defend obama's back stab of the gay community says
Concern trolling from professor Carpenter. Lovely.
If M N Ralph had been paying attention he would have known that gay marriage related issues is essentially all Dale Carpenter writes about on this blog. He was doing this long before obama was in office.
6.18.2009 10:58pm
Pedobear:
“Marriage is an extremely important institution in this country and protecting it is, in my mind, worth the extraordinary step of amending our constitution.”

But apparently, this extremely important institution is not worth the extraordinary step of keeping his zipper up.


Perhaps he didn't value his marriage strongly enough because same-sex marriage had cheapened the institution.
6.18.2009 11:59pm
ReaderY:
In many states a "domestic partnership" is a kind of business arrangement which permits an unlimited number of partners. Could one form a multi-partner domestic partnership with, say, a general partner and a number of limited partners, to enable the limited partners to obtain benefits from the general partner's federal employment?

Why not? Surely no-one could object. No-one want would want to raise the squalid idea that the federal government has any business questioning the way states choose to define what a domestic partnership is. Surely it is what the states say it is, and if the states give people an opportunity to enter into some non-traditional type of domestic partnership, the federal government should honor it. No-one would want to raise the even more squalid idea that the federal government can, let alone should, limit the kind of domestic partnerships it spends its money on to those that serve some sort of government-endorsed purpose distinct from the benefit and happiness of the partners.
6.19.2009 12:13am
Danny (mail):

"demonize?" "discriminate?" We are still talking about Obama GRANTING rights that previously didn't exist, right?


I didn't mean the Dems, I meant any party, hypothetically. My point was just that homophobia has a big political impact because many straight people have family links to gays and their voting changes accordingly.
6.19.2009 12:34am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Regarding "Hate Crimes".... the Zapata case was given publicity simply because it is so very rare, almost unheard of, that anyone is ever convicted of murder when the victim is transsexual.

70% of homicides are "cleaned up". Except when the victim is transsexual, then it's 30%.

The FBI tracks "hate crimes" based on religion (over 1000 attacks on Jews in 2007, vs 65 against Catholics), race, sexual orientation (again over 1000 attacks against Gays), but not against transgendered people. No-one was killed in 2007 on the basis of their religion. 5 gays were killed for being gay. And according to organisations that do track "hate crimes" against transgendered people, over 20 of them.

Here's one of the ones that won't be counted by the FBI without a "hate crimes" bill (or "pedophile protection bill" as its opponents call it). It was committed between the time this post was published on this site, and my comment:
I am having a very difficult time right now. I am a moderator on another site and we have a Forum and we have a Chat. Raychel 'Roo' was 18 in March. She died in intensive care last night. One of our teen Moderators, she lived in New York and was a post op teenage girl, and a dancer. She was headed to the Juliette School in the Fall. Now she is dead.

Her father was killed and her mother lost her arm in a terrible car crash last month. At one of the trials on this, one of the lawyers outed her. Her town had a very negative reaction.

She had life threats, she and her mother. The police had them under protective surveillance. The police left at noon yesterday. By two o'clock she was assulted. Last night she died.

She rode her bike to go to the store. She never came home. They found her bike in a dumpster. Late that evening they found her. She had been assaulted with a sledge hammer, they think, judging from the bruises all over her body. Her knee caps had been broken. She had been gang raped. They buried her alive.

She worked her way out of the almost grave and crawled for three hours to get help. She was put in the ICU and given little chance to survive. Last night she died.

The facts are skimpy, speculation reigns. Supposedly kids from a nearby school came after her in a van. There were no fingerprints. She had no semen after the rapes so it shows premeditation as they used condoms. She was so beat-up her organs just went into shock and she died.

Our whole group is sick and horrified. I am having a difficult time just writing this. I need to for two reasons, to tell her story and to say 'please be careful!' Last night we lost a sister, and one of our own.


THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. You just don't read about it, most such crimes where the victim is transsexual never make the papers. Not even on page 68.

Had such a crime been committed involving a teenage girl who was not transsexual, it's certain that it would have been given some publicity, if not page one.

One correction - In the Zapata case, there was no evidence of sexual activity between victim and killer - yet the killer is referred to as "her lover" by another commenter based solely on the killer's testimony, which has been shown to be almost wholly false from other evidence.
6.19.2009 1:17am
rick.felt:
Had such a crime been committed involving a teenage girl who was not transsexual, it's certain that it would have been given some publicity, if not page one.

He/she/it was raped and murdered? Then give the perps the chair, or life without parole if you're against capital punishment.

Given that the murderers committed a capital crime, I don't see how layering a hate-crime charge on top of it would have deterred them.
6.19.2009 8:48am
Randy R. (mail):
Rick, it is deeply offensive to refer to anyone as 'it'. Zapata was a person and should be treated as such, not an object. Many people have a hard time wrapping their head around what a transsexual is (and I completely understand why many people don't, so I don't mean to dump on you), at least afford them the respect any person deserves.

As to whether a transexual is a he or she, it is up to that person. Since she referred to herself as a teenaged girl, then she is a she, just as you probably would like to be referred to as a he. Thanks.

More to the point, I believe Zoe was merely arguing that these types of crimes are only tracked for purposes of hate crimes. It is of course disputable whether layering another charge on top of murder will act as a deterrent, but what is not disputable is that the FBI only started keeping tract of these cases once they decided to keep tract of hate crime. In many cases, there is no publicity, and so the public has a false belief that crimes against transsexuals are rare or non-existent, when in fact, as Zoe points out, then happen with much greater frequency than we would think.
6.19.2009 11:29am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
If the local law enforcement refuses to investigate, or the DA refuses to prosecute any crime where the victim is TS as murder, then a Hate Crime law would enable Federal intervention.

That only 30% of such homicides are solved when the victim is trans strongly suggests that this may be a problem. That deaths by violence of trans people often result in charges of common assault, attempted manslaughter, and so on also suggests that there's a problem.

That the "trans panic" defence continues to be used successfully in court is also an issue. We currently do not accept that killing a woman who's "passing for white" is a lesser crime when the misapprehension is resolved. Rather, it is seen as exacerbating the crime.

In addition, the legislation would enable the FBI to collect statistics on bias-motivated murders of trans people. Currently, only gays are covered, and the majority of the worst crimes of violence against GLBT people are against trans people. Personally, I think this is by far the most valuable part of the legislation, as the evidence it will produce will be shocking to the general public. We already know from counting media reports that the rate of lynching of trans people greatly exceeds the highest rate of lynching of blacks (per member of the victim class), but without "official statistics", such figures have little credence.

The additional penalties for bias-motivated crimes are really only relevant for lesser offences, such as desecrating cemetaries, burning down synagogues, and so on.

Example: Another incident, not a murder this time, but typical of the assaults that are not currently counted as bias-motivated crime:
Every few years, on my mother's side of the family, there is a gathering for a week of reunion of the family. You see, it's a large number, but hardly faceless. We all know each other.

My wonderful, sweet, loving, kind, brave, intelligent, and beautiful 2nd cousin... we'll use a name to begin with that is unfit, to help you understand. Zak (Zachary) is brave foremost, I think. This family reunion marked the beginning of a new life, of being true to the only person that mattered in the world. Herself.

This year, it began a week ago yesterday. A week ago today (Tuesday) evening, Zak told the gathered that Zak was ceasing to exist and Raychel would be her name from now on. I'm told she looked lovely, and that she and a couple of my open-minded and accepting other relatives spent the morning at a spa, so that she looked positively radiant. She received the reaction she expected, but was hoping for other. I'm also informed that immediately there were "quite audible" jeers blaming me for "corrupting" my cousin. I hadn't seen Raychel in years, mind you, though I would have liked to have been there to show my support, especially considering what happened last week.

Last Tuesday night, they found Raychel. Her nightgown cut from her, but still attached, unconscious and with her skull fractured, both arms broken, 8 ribs broken, both legs broken, her right shoulder and her left hip severely disjointed... and her nether regions bleeding profusely, though wrapped in a towel. She is stable at the moment, but comatose. Her mother and father (two of my supporters) have contacted me. While Raychel is in the hospital, they are moving. They're not sure where, they're checking with work to see where in the country they can be transferred. Raychel will find that her parents have disassociated themselves from our family when she recovers -- which doctors say will be the end of October at the earliest will be when she's able to regain consciousness, if ever.

I.
Am.
So.
FURIOUS.

I am told that they've already caught the perpetrators. That the local police didn't want to do anything, trying to claim it was a "domestic dispute" and didn't want to get involved. Yes, the same useless police that didn't do squat when my baby brother was killed. However, the County Sheriff intervened, and the 3 that were responsible were caught. One of them admitted that the other two had anally raped her after they used a hand-sledge on her testicles. His statement that, "... it was okay, though, they used condoms," makes me ill. The doctors had missed the trauma there because it was minor compared to the beating she had received and the testicular mauling required an emergency orchiectomy. This will, at least, be quite open and shut. One of my more ingenious cousins had sat in the bushes outside Raychel's room Monday night, waiting with a camcorder. She didn't realize how severe it was going to be, or she'd've gotten help, but once it started she was afraid to let herself be known. She got it all. On Mini-DV. Eat it, stupid cows. She's sending me a copy, not because I really want to see it, but because I think I need to see it to deal with this. I am told that one of the things the three said during the incident was, "You think this is bad, you just wait until we get that [CENSORED] fairy [CENSORED], Patrick, or whatever the hell his name is now, that turned you into what you are!" so I have reason to want this evidence on hand.

I... do not have words to continue. I'm going to go and write to get rid of some anger.
Had the County Sheriff not been given the video evidence, it is unlikely any investigation would have been conducted.

The use of sledgehammers on victims is not uncommon, as is the use of condoms during the rape, though the first names being the same is coincidence.
6.19.2009 11:32am
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
Randy R - thanks. Although I'm not technically trans, I'm Intersexed, trans is close enough. Like 5alpha-reductase-2 deficiency and 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency, my particular medical syndrome involves an apparent natural sex change. There's about 5,000 of us in the US, compared to the over 50,000 post-operative trans people, and rather more who can't afford the surgery.

So if you find trans people confusing... well, I can understand that. It's no easier for those who are trans or Intersexed, and the legal problems we face would be hilarious if they weren't so terrible.

Then there's the measured rates of violence.

The chance of dying from homicide in the general population in the USA is 1 in 18,000. The chance for young urban black males is 1 in 5,500.

The chance for black or latina trans women is supposedly 1 in 8, but there's evidence that the population in those groups is drastically undercounted, so it's actually nowhere near as bad, only 1 in 40.

For people like the murder victim I mentioned in my first post, white, female, post-operative, middle-class, doesn't stand out, tries to remain inconspicuous, but whose status is public knowledge(like myself), the odds are 1 in 1,100.

While this does not prove that there's an epidemic of bias-motivated violence against trans people, it certainly suggests that data should be gathered.
6.19.2009 12:03pm
rick.felt:
If the local law enforcement refuses to investigate, or the DA refuses to prosecute any crime where the victim is TS as murder, then a Hate Crime law would enable Federal intervention.
What if local law enforcement or the local prosecutor refuses to investigate/prosecute a murder that cannot be classified as a hate crime? Should we not federalize those crimes, as well? If not, why not?
6.19.2009 12:25pm
Danny (mail):
There is no need I think for the terms hate crime or hate crime legislation. There is a simple word for this phenomenon: terrorism. Someone who attacks or kills a random black / Jew / lesbian / transexual to send a message to that community should be guilty of assault or murder AND terrorism.
6.19.2009 12:48pm
john464:


First of all, your numbers don't work:
Jews 2.2% Jewish Population of the United States by State
GLBT 1.51% Composite U.S. Demographics

First of all, quoting a source that block quotes the Family Research Council isn't going to convince anyone that doesn't already agree with you. Second, even your source purports to be citing 2000 census figures of openly gay people, not the total number of gay people.



Actually, stats from 2000 would have been better than the apparent source: "The primary source cited was the The National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS), published in the book The Social Organization of Sex: Sexual Practices in the United States (1994), by Laumann, Gagnon, Michael and Michaels."

A lot has changed in 15 years, including the percentage of people comfortable with publicly identifying as gay.
6.19.2009 6:46pm

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