Kerry Eleveld published an interview with Barack Obama yesterday in which she asked a few questions about ENDA. Obama basically says that he didn't have time to do more than one piece of LGBT legislation, and here's why it was DADT:
So Congress is a complicated place with 535 people that you have to deal with in order to get anything done. And my belief was when I first came in, and it continues to be, that by getting "don't ask, don't tell" done, we sent a clear message about the direction, the trajectory of this country in favor of equality for LGBT persons. The next step I think would be legislatively to look at issues like DOMA and ENDA. And I'm going to continue to ...
He continues a bit later:
As I said, though, that outside of legislative circles, attitudes are changing rapidly. They're changing in our culture. They're changing in our workplaces. One of the most important things I can do as president is to continually speak out about why it's important to treat everyone as our brothers and sisters, as fellow Americans, as citizens.
And looking for constant opportunities to do that I think is going to be critically important because that helps set the tone and changes the ground beneath the feet of legislators so that they start feeling like, gosh, maybe we are behind the times here and we need to start moving forward. And so you chip away at these attitudes. It also continues to require effective advocacy from groups on the outside.
So I guess my general answer to your question is when it comes to legislation, it took us two years to get "don't ask, don't tell" done. I know that there are a whole bunch of folks who thought we could have gotten it done in two months. There were people who thought with a stroke of a pen it could get done. That, in fact, was not the case. But it got done.
And I'm confident that these other issues will get done. But what they require is a systematic strategy and constant pressure and a continuing change in attitudes. And as I said, there are things that we can continue to do administratively that I think will send a message that the federal government, as an employer, is going to constantly look for opportunities to make sure that we're eliminating discrimination.
That's just not how I remember things. They didn't just go into office, announce a grand strategy that started with DADT repeal, push for DADT repeal for two years, and now start looking at ENDA and DOMA repeal.
From about halfway through 2009 (before which hate crimes legislation was the only LGBT issue that got any attention in Congress) until early 2010, ENDA was the big LGBT bill that everyone thought was going to pass first, what with its huge public support, the hearings in both the House and the Senate on the bill, and the fact that it had passed (albeit without gender identity protections) in the previous Congress.
But it kept on getting punted down the line as Congressional Democrats kept on making promises they wouldn't keep regarding its passage, and the gaystream's attention turned towards DADT repeal because it's a big, shiny object that makes for good press and parades and stories about heroes serving their country (as if people who work in other professions do jack taco for others), so DADT repeal it was.
If Obama (and, by extension, Democrats) had a clear reason for putting DADT repeal before ENDA, then why did both the House and the Senate hold hearings on ENDA in 2009? Why were we constantly hearing about them scheduling mark-ups and then not following through on ENDA? If DADT repeal had to happen before everything else, why wasn't the administration or the Democratic leadership in Congress pushing for it in 2009 so that there'd be time for other bills later? Why didn't the push for DADT repeal start earlier than this year's Defense authorization bill, and instead start on, say, last year's Defense authorization bill? Was the Matthew Shepard Act already enough queerness for one big bill?
Neither DOMA repeal nor ENDA are likely to even come up for a vote in a Boehner-controlled House, even though there would probably be more than a few Republicans crossing over to support ENDA. But this is the first I'm hearing from a Democratic leader that there was a conscious strategy to put DADT repeal before ENDA, and I can't say I really buy that excuse for ignoring ENDA considering no one was talking about there being a "natural" (Obama's word) order to these bills back in 2009. If anything, they were acting like the "natural" order was the other way, that ENDA was just more doable so it would happen first.
Anyway, like I said earlier this week, straight media has already forgotten that job discrimination against LGBT people even occurs and they're back to their one-track focus on marriage. It's a bright shiny object, complete with cakes and music and dresses and easy jokes, while ENDA is the beginning to a lot of boring lawsuits.
The reason I criticize The Advocate so much is because they have an important role to play that they don't always live up to. And here Kerry Eleveld was at least able to get in a question or two that actually matter to real-live LGBT people, not just the straight people with a shallow understanding of our politics.