I’m not commenting on this piece of Legislation one way or another. However, to the extent that (1) it involves a big fight between the Democrats and one of their strongest constituencies, (2) the constituency represents only a small fraction of Americans overall, and (3) that the fight is over an even smaller subset of the constituency, a subset that most people find uncomfortable, I do wonder what political ground the Democrats gain with this fight:
Leading gay rights organizations, with the pointed exception of the Human Rights Campaign, withdrew their support Monday from a landmark gay civil rights bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., pulled transgender people from the legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.
The intense backlash by the gay community surprised House Democratic leaders, forcing them to postpone what had been intended as a big House vote this week to include gays and lesbians in the nation’s job discrimination laws for the first time in American history.
The debate playing out between gay rights activists and two of their biggest supporters in Congress raises a classic political question: Are activists better off compromising and accepting progress or continuing to fight for everything they want?
Gay rights groups have been waiting for a decade for the bill to pass, and many say a few more months to try to build support for including gender identity would be worth the wait. They say transgender people will have little chance of winning protection from discrimination if they aren’t included in this bill.
Pelosi and Frank, however, fear the inclusion of gender identity will kill the overall bill – again denying gays and lesbians protection against job discrimination.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued conflicting statements Monday in reaction to the turmoil. The first declared her personal support for including transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act but asserted she would stick by her decision to drop them from the bill to give it a greater chance of passage.
About three hours later, the speaker issued a new statement saying, “After discussions with congressional leaders and organizations supporting passage” of the bill, committee and floor votes on the bill had been postponed to “allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.”
The new statement was signed by Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., the only openly lesbian member of Congress (Frank is the only openly gay member), who had withheld her endorsement from the bill after the decision to drop transgender people.
The statement also was signed by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who heads the committee that will oversee the bill. The committee’s vote on the jobs discrimination bill had been scheduled for today but was postponed until the week of Oct. 15.
Read the rest here. Don’t feel obligated to comment on the bill’s substance please. I really am most interested in the political ramifications. I strikes me that, if you’re like the Democrats and don’t have strong central principles, but instead play off to varying special interest groups, you’re going to start fraying rapidly around the edges, and thin at the center.
UPDATE: Incidentally, for those really concerned about Gay rights, here is a good place to start.