HRC and SLDN have set up a site called Countdown 2010 for their campaign to get these things done, and get them done this year. To do this they're looking for people to call, write, and arrange personal meetings with the staff of their Congresspersons, to urge them to act. They have step by step instructions on how you can do any or all three of these things.
Visit countdown2010.hrc.org to get started, or read below for some more details.
So here's what this is about:
- DADT is incredibly close to repeal. This year's military authorization bill contains a provision, which institutes a delayed repeal of the 1993 law that bars the military from accepting gays and lesbians. This bill has passed the House, and has passed committee in the Senate. Carl Levin is trying to get the full Senate to vote in September, as soon as they get back from recess. But Levin needs help keeping the Democratic caucus in line and focused, to make sure the vote happens on time and goes the right way.
- ENDA on the other hand is in pretty big trouble and is going to need a lot of help. Right now, it's legal to fire people for being gay or lesbian in 29 states, and for being transgender in another 9. ENDA is the bill that would fix this. Unfortunately, ENDA has been in limbo since last November, and the Democrats have been sometimes evasive about what the holdup is. The most recent claim was that a whip count had been held and that the leadership had the votes and planned to speed the bill through committee and a floor vote all at once-- but that this plan had to be put on hold so the House could switch its attention to voting on the DADT repeal. So what happens when the DADT votes are finished? In order for ENDA to move forward, Pelosi has to give Education and Labor Committee chair George Miller the okay to let the bill go up for a committee vote, but she might not do that if she doesn't think she can still pull off the full House vote that comes after that. When Nancy Pelosi was asked about all this at Netroots Nation, she said she still believed that DADT+ENDA are both possible this year, but that she would need help. "Make me do it", she said.
Okay, well, let's make them do it.
Congress is on recess all this month. If you want to get a message to your Congressperson, this is the perfect time. Congresspeople are fanning out for town halls, and since these will be the last time they talk to constituents before a big election, they might just be sensitive to what the constituents say they want. Is DADT important to you? Is ENDA important to you? Let them know.
Because here's the thing: the people who are against equality have shown they are good at letting Congresspeople know what they think. They've shown they can come out and organize against progress. They can get screaming people with signs to flood town halls. They can get a Congressional office flooded with phone calls from people who are convinced that even modest reforms, like last year's hate crimes bill, are the end of the world and an attack on religion. If we want Pelosi and Frank and Levin and Miller to be able to achieve the goals for equality that they want to achieve, we need to be able to come out and organize for progress. We need to flood those Congressional offices right back. But on our side we've not always been consistent about that kind of organizing.
Barney Frank made the interesting observation awhile back that there's not an LGBT version of the NRA: We have insider lobbying orgs like HRC has been, and we have grassroots groups like GetEQUAL that can raise awareness and get the public's attention, but we don't seem to have a very effective machine for connecting the grassroots to Federal legislators-- talking to Congresspeople and then holding them accountable.
I think with the Countdown 2010 project, HRC and SLDN are taking a big step in exactly the right direction toward addressing that, and have identified just the organizing we need to make sure DADT and ENDA passed. Their blog post explains how their focus will work:
HRC and SLDN’s efforts will be specifically focused on 10 states with key lawmakers whose votes on DADT repeal are critical: Arkansas, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Virginia. HRC will also engage the LGBT community and our allies in those states on an inclusive ENDA in addition to on-the-ground work for ENDA in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Supporters of equality are encouraged to meet with Representatives and Senators while they are in their districts and states for the August Congressional recess.
But they need help from people in all 50 states. So again, the site is called Countdown 2010; I hope you'll check it out.
Thanks for all you do.