As the Supreme Court weighed arguments on same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts wondered aloud from the bench whether action on the issue by the court was necessary, because “politicians are falling all over themselves” to bring the legal rights of gay and lesbian Americans in line with those of everyone else. If only this were true. In up to 34 states it’s still legal for employers to deny jobs to citizens simply because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender... President Obama can take unilateral action right now to help more LGBT Americans secure jobs, improve living standards and live out their dreams. As Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, said to me recently, "Hopefully 2013 will be the year that President Obama fulfills his written 2008 campaign promise and signs an employment non-discrimination executive order." The case for doing so is persuasive and the numbers are staggering. Contrary to the aspirational images wealthy white men in popular media, such as the gay-millionaire couple on NBC’s hit-comedy "The New Normal" or the upwardly mobile denizens of "Will & Grace," LGBT Americans are more likely to be poor and less educated than their peers, and come from communities that have been historically, economically marginalized. More than half of LGBT people in the U.S. are women, and black Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos make up a greater proportion of those identifying as LGBT than do whites. According to a Gallup Survey last year, LGBT Americans are 30 percent more likely to have low-income jobs than the general population. Correspondingly, LGBT Americans are less likely to have high paying jobs than workers as a whole, and have a greater sense of dissatisfaction with their living standards as a result.I can't say that I am thrilled by the foregrounding of Obama in this account. I say this since reliably sustainable labor organizing seems to me a poor fit for hopes of Presidential deus ex machina interventions or, more likely of course, diversions of energy into wrongly personalizing recriminations over Presidential disappointment. All this is not to mention one simply doesn't know whether the Obama administration will incline more to his frustratingly but eventually successful patient multilateral DADT-repeal model or his more willing to be unilateral DOMA-repeal model when it comes to ENDA.
However, nothing could be more important than Jones' documentation of the actual realities of LGBTQ precarity here -- these are points that Urvashi Vaid's LGBTF used to foreground in ways that were eclipsed in my view by the rise and eventual prevalence of the more conservative HRC as exemplary LGBTQ activism.
While I have always been ambivalent about the assimilationist project of militarization/marriagability of gays since I don't particularly approve of the killing of brown people in my name for plutocratic profit and I consider marriage a vestige of human trafficking (and my partner of eleven years agrees with me), I have also known that exclusions from these institutions has obviously facilitated the abjection and precarization of queers, and I hope that inclusions of queers within them may render them comparatively more capacious and less injurious for all, and I do believe that resistance to these sites is stronger when one rejects advantages one is welcome to rather than already excluded from.
Still, all that said, I think this last move of still-legibly assimilationist gay politics, the work to end employment and workplace discrimination, edges in the direction of making unmistakable threats to the white-racist patriarchal corporate-military status quo. I fear that the comparatively privileged white gay males who have fought and funded ferociously against DADT and DOMA may not be quite as reliable against ENDA (I hope I am wrong), and that this goal may end up being harder fought than folks think, fresh from a string of successes that happen to have also been profitable to incumbent interests in ways ENDA would not be. By way of conclusion, I'll just mention that the falsifying obscenity of the title of the show "The New Normal" is almost apt, given the actual show.