Two last chances to show progressive voters Democrats meant what they said about GLBT issues in 2008
Enough is enough. The relentless parade of suicides, violence, and hate must end. And in two different cases, one in Minnesota and one nationwide, there are two chances to make the choice between homophobia and civilized behavior clear. It's time for extraordinary measures. After watching the slow-motion mud wrestling match of the last 18 months, progressive voters are frustrated and often apathetic. While Democrats have so far failed to deliver promised changes on GLBT issues, there are two last chances to act.
The first is to support Sen. Scott Dibble's effort to pass the Minnesota Safe Schools for All Act during the upcoming legislative special session. This bill was passed by the Minnesota House and Senate during 2009, and was vetoed by Governor Pawlenty. The recent spate of suicides by GLBT teenagers, most visibly the loss of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi, has highlighted the toll of bullying, harassment, and violence on GLBT youth. This legislation speaks to an issue that is of critical importance at a crucial time. As Dibble noted, as horrible as the floods were in southern Minnesota, there were no deaths. “We’ve got a whole bunch of kids who have died just this year as a consequence of being bullied,” Dibble said.
Pawlenty will do all in his power to prevent Dibble from introducing the bill on the floor. The DFL legislative leadership will be sorely tempted to quash Dibble's attempt to make the special session quick, uncontroversial and painless. There will be rational-sounding arguments like "we need to get back on the campaign trail," and "why risk angering flood victims by introducing unrelated legislation?" But it's well past time to make Pawlenty pay a national political price for his 2009 veto, and it's a perfect time to make Tom Emmer vote against the bill he says he will veto.
On a national level, the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips that prevents the U.S. military from enforcing it's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. This starts a 60 day clock where the Justice Department will have to choose whether to appeal Phillips' decision that overturned DADT. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Justice Department was mum on the strategy going forward. Many media outlets noted that Obama is likely to order Justice to appeal the decision, because he's previously noted that he wants Congress to take action to end DADT.
Well, excuse me, but if you've been paying attention, Congress won't decide anything. There's never been more acceptance of the inevitability of the end of DADT. But leave it up to a lame-duck session of Congress? If you think that the same Senate that killed a DADT overturn provision recently will have a change of heart after the midterm election, that's silly. This is a recipe for yet another delay in ending this silly policy. As Judge Phillips noted, DADT hurts military recruiting and the loss of highly trained personnel while violating GLBT service members' constitutional rights.
Obama should instruct the Justice Department to not contest Phillips' ruling. The report on DADT commissioned by the Department of Defense is due on December 1st. It's well past time that Obama live up to his promise to repeal DADT. Unless something pretty dramatic changes soon, he'd better get used to using the tools of the executive branch to make change and stop relying on Congress.
If the Democrats want to pull themselves out of their self-dug hole of progressive voter disinterest, they need to do something. In this case, these two issues shift the frame from the bogeyman of marriage to fundamental issues of fairness.
In both cases, Republicans will find themselves squarely on the wrong side of history. The party of Carl Paladino needs to squirm alongside him. Let them justify why GLBT teenagers should be subject to harassment. Let them explain why GLBT soldiers should be prevented from serving their country with courage and honor.
With Congress in adjournment and the Minnesota Legislature out of session, these would be bold moves to take care of unfinished business. They also represent tactics that Democratic leaders have not shown a willingness to embrace. But the clock is running out, the need is great, and doing something to show progressive voters the value of showing up at the polls would pay dividends.
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