Barney on Obama, ENDA, trans rights

Lou Chibbaro Jr. of the Blade has an interview with openly gay congressman Barney Frank. Here’s a summary, read Lou’s piece for the transcript:

He described as “political suicide” the call by some LGBT activists and bloggers for withholding support for President Barack Obama on grounds that Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress didn’t push harder for more LGBT legislative advances, including the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or ENDA, which remains stalled in Congress.

Frank said he has seen important advances in the support for transgender rights in Congress and several states, including Massachusetts, which just passed a transgender non-discrimination bill that includes protections in employment, housing, credit and adds transgender protections to the state’s hate crimes law.

But Frank noted that the bill passed after transgender leaders and their supporters in the legislature agreed to a compromise that eliminated public accommodations protections from the bill. Lawmakers supportive of the bill said they would add public accommodations protections to the law as soon they can line up the votes in the legislature needed to do so.

Frank dismissed as “ridiculous” the attacks by some LGBT activists who called the compromise unacceptable and an outrage against the transgender community.

“That is an example of their political stupidity,” he said, noting that the compromise bill provides employment and housing protections that otherwise would not have passed if advocates held out for an all-or-nothing bill.

Frank described as “reasonable” a proposal by LGBT advocates that President Obama issue an executive order requiring companies that receive federal contracts in the defense and other industries to provide non-discrimination protections for their LGBT employees.

“I think that’s a reasonable thing to keep pushing for,” he said. ”There are limits to what you can do. You don’t want the president to overreach from what could be required in legislation. I think that’s worth pushing for if it’s carefully done.”

Barney is right and wrong about a few things here. It’s not political suicide to threaten to withhold your support from a party and a candidate that don’t keep their promises. It’s political suicide to reward such candidates, as it only reinforces the impression – the fact – that you’re a push-over, so they never need to keep their promises in the future.

Politics, when done well, is a never-ending game of chicken. Democrats (and Republicans) are skittish about doing the right thing on our legislation, so we have no choice but we to keep driving our car at their car until they swerve at the last minute and do the right thing. The alternative is never getting anything.

As for the trans bill, they got a lot more protections at the local level than we have at the national level, so it’s hardly “nothing.” And even the bill that’s a “sell out” offers a lot more protections than ENDA would offer us – so would passage of ENDA at the national level be a sell out too?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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