The fate of a gay- and transgender-inclusive hate crimes bill was called into question this week when gay-supportive members of the House of Representatives threatened to vote against a defense authorization bill to which the measure is attached.
As many as 20 House Democrats who are strong gay rights supporters indicated they might vote against the National Defense Authorization Act because it includes provisions that support President Bush’s efforts to continue the Iraq war, Capitol Hill sources said.
At the same time, as many as 180 House Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted against a freestanding version of the hate crimes bill in May threatened to vote against the Department of Defense authorization measure this week unless the hate crimes provision were taken out,
congressional insiders said.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was expected to join Senate Democratic leaders Thursday morning in announcing a postponement of a vote on the entire bill until at least Dec. 1, when Congress returns from its Thanksgiving holiday recess, according to a knowledgeable congressional source.
The House and Senate were scheduled to vote on a final version of the combined hate crimes-DOD authorization bill by Friday after a House-Senate conference committee made last-minute changes.
In my mind, this calls a few thins into question.
First, if the Democrats in Congress can’t come through on hate crimes, what makes us think they can come through on ENDA this year or next? If we can’t get even enough Democrats in Congress to agree that beating up a queer because he or she is a queer is a hate crime, then I think w need to seriously ask ourselves whether it makes any sense to pin our hopes to the Democrats any more than the Republicans. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Democratic party is changing in a way that runs counter to alleged progressive values, like equality and fairness.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The ultimate victory of the “Republican Revolution” may very well end up being a more conservative Democratic party.
And what of those progressive who care about and are working on issues like war and economic justice, but who are also passionate about social issues? What do we do with a party that seems to want less to do with those issues?
The problem is that we’re stuck in a party that’s not so much progressive as it is “progressive-to-a-point,” stopping short of some progressive values in pursuit of voters who do the same. I can think of three off the top of my head. To my mind, in addition to other issues, a progressive party would also stand up for:
* reproductive choice
* separation of church and state
Right now, it looks like Democrats don’t have the stomach to stand up for any of the above.
And then there’s the question of strategy. What do we say about a gay leadership that (a) opts for and ENDA strategy that inevitably divides the community and causes damage that will take years to repair, and (b) opts for a hate crimes strategy that pits gay rights against the war in Iraq, and (c) with a president in the White House who’s unlikely to put his John Hancock on either measure?
Between a Democratic party that’s veering more conservative and a gay organizational leadership that seems to be challenged in the strategy department, where exactly are we now? Triangulated right into oblivion?