The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Inching Towards Equality?

As much as I’ve taken Democratic presidential candidates to task on marriage, I feel like I have to give credit where credit is due. Especially after having said the following.

Gravel’s presence at the forum isn’t going to make supporting equality seem goofy and thus dissuade Democratic candidates from supporting equality, because the “serious” candidates are all afraid to publicly support equality even if they support it privately. The only person even connected with a major Democratic candidate who has the courage of her convictions is Elizabeth Edwards, and that’s a damn shame because she’s not running for anything. Her husband is, and while I don’t doubt Elizabeth’s sincerity, her stance accomplishes little more than making some gay voters feel better about her husband while also giving him enough cover to basically have it both ways by “tolerating” his wife’s stance and saying that he opposes discrimination while basically supporting discrimination and inequality.

…I refuse to cheer any candidates support of civil unions or “leaving it to the states” unless they either explain why the federal government is even in the business of offering benefits and protections to heterosexual families but not ours, or make a case for the federal government getting out of the business of awarding benefits and protections on the basis of marital status. And I don’t want to hear about any candidate’s support for civil unions unless it’s followed by their vision for some national policy measure that establishes civil unions in a way that protects our families across state lines.

So, when some Democrats take even a tiny step towards support for marriage equality, as with the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, it’s at least worth recognizing.

A bill introduced in the United States Senate would equalize employment benefits for same-sex domestic partners of federal employees.

S.2521, also known as the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, was introduced Wednesday by Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon, independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and 19 co-sponsors. The legislation seeks to grant health benefits, family medical leave, long-term care and retirement benefits, to match those of married couples, to the domestic partners of federal employees.

…Corporate giants such as Raytheon, Disney, Time Warner, IBM, and Microsoft join a majority of Fortune 500 companies in providing domestic partner benefits to their employees, along with 13 states and 201 local governments.

“This legislation,” says Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solomonese, “would allow the federal government to keep pace with other top employers. It is not only a matter of equal pay for equal work, but also the best way to insure that the government has access to the top talent on the same basis as the nation’s leading corporations.”

The only thing more surprising than the bill, coming out of a Democratic congress that couldn’t get the hate crimes bill passed, is that the list of cosponsors includes one Democratic Presidential candidate who only supports a partial repeal of DOMA, and another Democrat who supports civil unions but not marriage.

And another Democratic candidate promised pro-equality policies if he’s elected, and told New Hampshire voters he supports civil unions but not marriage. (Hint: his wife is all for marriage.)

Speaking in New Hampshire, he pledged to try to repeal the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996, that banned the federal government from recognising gay marriages or unions and allowed states to refuse to recognise same-sex unions from other states.

…”I think we should get rid of DOMA; I think DOMA was a mistake from the beginning, and discriminatory, and so I will do everything in my power as President to do that,” he told reporters, according to the Washington Post.

…Mr Edwards also pledged to try to end the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” also enacted by President Clinton, which bans openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving in the US military.

…Yesterday the candidate told an audience of several hundred that he approved of New Hampshire’s civil union law.

“The key is to have the federal government recognise civil unions between same-sex couples,” he said

If marriage equality is to be achieved step by step, then getting the federal government to recognize civil unions is an important step.

One of my problems with the Democratic candidates who’ve gone on and on about their support for civil unions has been that it always been a whole lot of talk without much “walk.” So much of it was mere vocal support that was not tied to and did not result in legislation that mandated federally recognized civil unions or that even suggested anything close.

Now, at least two Democratic presidential candidates have cosponsored a bill to grant same-sex partners of federal employees the same rights and benefits as married heterosexuals. That’s not marriage equality. It’s not even civil unions. But it is a sign that while some of us are pushing towards equality, and bringing a lot of the rest of the country along with us. The Democrats are inching along. That’s not leading, but it’s progress on their part, however incremental.

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