The following Op-Ed was written by Joe Mirabella. Joe Mirabella is a volunteer for Join the Impact as the Washington State Community Organizer. Mirabella is a full time writer and content developer. He is engaged to marry his partner of 5 1/2 years in their home state of Iowa.
UPDATE 4:12 PM PST: Transcript of the President’s comments during the signing ceremony.
UPDATE 3:34 PM PST: The President signed a more lasting executive order and renewed his commitment to over turn DOMA. Our voices are making an impact. Keep it up. For up to the minute blogging of the signing ceremony visit the Law Dork 2.0.
The President announced plans to sign a memorandum to grant Federal Employees in Same-Sex relationships access to some domestic partnership rights. This announcement came on the heals of last week’s release of the Department of Justice memo comparing same-sex relationships to incestuous and pedophile relationships among other outrageous and highly injurious claims. The 50 page brief was a stab in the back and the President is quickly trying to recover from it. However, instead of introducing meaningful and lasting legislation that will impact the entire country, the President’s memorandum is weak and temporary. When he leaves office the memorandum will lapse leaving those protected by this symbolic measure with nothing but a legal and fiduciary mess.
And let’s not forget, domestic partnership benefits like health care are taxed unfairly. Same-sex couples must claim benefits like health care as income. Opposite sex couples do not. Domestic partnerships are just one more glaring example that separate is never equal. But this may be a moot point since the President is likely to stop short of offering health care and retirement benefits because of DOMA.
Some have suggested we should applaud the move. Chris Geidner from Law Dork, 2.0 wrote:
Yes, we want and deserve more, much more — including all those campaign promises the President Obama gave to us. But, in the midst of the turmoil of all the legal debacles of the past week — and regardless of why Obama chose to take this action now — let’s stop and be strategic for a minute to realize how we can harness the power of this memorandum to move forward the causes of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and DOMA and passing ENDA. In each case, this can be used to advance those missions:
- As John Aravosis pointed out, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would keep military service members from accepting the benefits — even if they are eligible under the memorandum. The obvious unfairness of that can be used to urge Congress to take quick action.
- As for DOMA, the reality of a quarter-million folks in D.C. being eligible for benefits tomorrow that they weren’t today will be a powerful everyday sign of the need for a less anachronistic federal policy on marriage equality. This action is living proof of how wrong the DOJ brief filed in Smelt v. United States truly is.
- ENDA becomes a common-sense step under the same logic as above. If the federal government is granting its lesbian and gay employees partner benefits, it seems obvious that an employer should never be able to fire an LGBT employee based on that fact alone.
Geidner made some very excellent points, but this memorandum must be leveraged at the grass roots level. Last Friday when the DOJ memo was released it unleashed a firestorm of criticism from bloggers like David Badash, Andrew Sullivan, and others. Editorial boards like the New York Times decried the memo as “a bad call.” But most importantly citizens throughout this country said, “No!” Twitter and Facebook were alive with messages to @barackobama and @whitehouse protesting the memo and its insulting language. The President clearly heard our message, but he did not go far enough.
We must not be placated by this disingenuous move. The HRC and others were very clear, and very correct to demand the President to introduce legislation now to repeal DOMA, to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and to protect all gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual citizens in their employment through the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The administration told the Advocate there is not enough votes to pass ENDA or even the very symbolic and highly over due hate crimes legislation. Politicians have not heard us. We must be relentless. We must be unforgettable. We must be loud and clear that their jobs are on the line. Simply, if the Democrats do not start taking action and supporting the people that funded their campaigns, that volunteered their time, that gave them their vote, they are going to lose us and likely their jobs. We are the swing vote. We have enormous power.
Let’s unleash a firestorm on the switchboards of congress today, tomorrow, and every day. (202)224-3121 Let’s follow up our calls with hand written letters. Let’s follow up those letters with visits to their offices. Let’s follow up those visits with a march on Washington in October. Let’s learn from civil rights movements of the past and participate in acts of civil disobedience. Dan Savage from the Stranger proposed one possible idea at the link.*
Friends, if we do no not seize this brief moment in history before the next Presidential election cycle begins in 2010, you can bet our issues will be ignored by anyone who has the power to make the change they were so proud to represent in 2008.
Now is your time. Now is your moment. Equality is now. Demand it!
*(Note: Please consult an attorney before engaging in any acts of civil disobedience that could result in arrest. Join the Impact is not specifically endorsing Savage’s plan, but simply pointing it out as an example).