Friday, June 13, 2008

Baldwin Discusses Gay Bills in Congressional Limbo

GLBT News Summary for Progressives - Ray's List also covered Wednesday's discussion.

-Baldwin Discusses Gay Bills in Congressional Limbo

The only open lesbian in the U.S. House of Representatives is predicting that in the next session of Congress, bills related to employment non-discrimination and hate crimes will be more successful than legislation aimed at repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) made the comments today at a Center for American Progress forum geared toward highlighting the importance of the Domestic Partner Benefits and Obligations Act, which would grant the partners of gay federal employees the same benefits that are available tothe spouses of straight counterparts. Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) joined Baldwin in the panel discussion. Other speakers at the event included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former U.S. Ambassador to Romania Michael Guest, who resigned his 26-year career as a foreign service officer last year in protest of federal employment practices. Baldwin said she is "very optimistic" that ENDA and a hate crimes measure would pass Congress next session, particularly if Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who has supported these initiatives, take the White House.

The event was covered by Daily Motion as well, and this site has video of the discussion.

In 1997 President Bill Clinton nominated Jim Hormel to be the first openly gay Ambassador to Luxembourg. After a 20-month politically divisive battle, Secretary Albright swore in Ambassador Hormel. Two years later, in 2001, President Bush nominated Michael Guest to be ambassador to Romania. While there was no battle for confirmation, what both ambassadors had to cope with was an inequitable system that treated them and their committed partners differently under the law. Federal Employees, whether in the foreign service or working in a regional office of HHS, are denied the ability to purchase domestic partner benefits. The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (S. 2521 and H.R. 4838) would provide domestic partnership benefits to all federal civilian employees on the same basis as spousal benefits. These benefits, available for same sex domestic partners of federal employees, would include participation in applicable retirement programs, compensation for work injuries, and life and health insurance benefits. By offering health benefits to the domestic partners of federal employees, employment practices in the federal government would be in line with those of America’s largest and most successful corporations, including AT&T, General Motors, and Raytheon. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sen Gordon Smith, Rep Tammy Baldwin and others appeared at a June 11, 2008 event at the Center for American Progress (CAPAF) to discuss the current policy and the future.

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