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Monday, November 04, 2013

Working While Gay in the USA

When I was in Queer Nation/Atlanta twenty years ago, we were doing sit-ins in Cracker Barrel restaurants across the South because they fired Cheryl Summerville for being being gay. Overabundantly inept Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner, we are told, is a "moderate," "establishmentarian," "institutionalist," depicted as forever struggling haplessly against an unruly base of anti-democratic know-nothing white racist patriarchal bigots. It is rarely made clear on just what issues of substance he disagrees with them in fact, apart from quibbling around the edges with them over questions of tactics and spin in real time. This morning, Boehner has indicated in no uncertain terms that he personally opposes ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would end hiring and workplace discrimination for queer folks. Versions of the Act have been repeatedly proposed and then failed passage for four decades, all along and long before I was picketing, marching, and getting to spend a night in jail over the issue all those twenty years ago. There are now enough votes with most Democrats and a few Republicans to pass ENDA, but Boehner's opposition means it will not even receive a hearing in the House. The next time you hear someone say they feel sorry for John Boehner because he has to deal with these Tea Party zealots, blah blah, you might recall this moment (one of endlessly many in fact, including the government shutdown, in which he has had the votes with Democratic support to accomplish useful things or stop catastrophic things from happening but did not do so). The likely passage of ENDA tonight in the Senate is a milestone nonetheless, I suppose, and we will be told it will provide "momentum" to speed the eventual passage of this urgently necessary Act. Of course, "momentum" has always looked to this rhetorician as mostly an inapt metaphor in the context of legislative processes, but who am I to say? I do suppose ENDA will pass before another twenty years goes by after all. Momentum!

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