11 days ago, Barney Frank told Metro Weekly that ENDA legislation (prohibition of discrimination against employees on the basis of sexual orientation) would be marked up in the House Education and Labor Committee:
"It will be this week or next week."
Well, it's almost two weeks later, and not only hasn't the bill been marked up, it's not even scheduled to be marked up.
In November of 2009, Frank was also widely quoted as saying that the plan to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell was to put such an amendment into the Defense Authorization Bill.
Repealing 'don't ask, don't tell' will likely be included as part of next year's Department of Defense authorization bill in both chambers of Congress, Congressman Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Wednesday...
Frank said he has been in direct communication with the White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, and other congressional leaders about the strategy for ending the 1993 ban on gays serving openly in the military.
Though some moderate Democrats have recently expressed concern about repealing the policy during a midterm election year, Frank said resolve at the White House has never wavered. "The Administration is totally committed to this and has been from the beginning," he said.
That may still be his plan, and it would be a good plan, except for one problem. As far as anyone has been able to fathom, the Adminstration is not totally committed to this, and in fact has been acting behind the scenes to ensure that a repeal amendment is not inserted into the authorization bill.
Barney Frank is one of the most powerful people in the United States.
As chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, beginning in 2007, Frank "sits at the center of power"... He is also widely considered to be one of the most powerful members of Congress... In 2004 and again in 2006, a survey of Capitol Hill staffers published in Washingtonian gave Frank the title of the "brainiest", "funniest", and "most eloquent" member of the House.
So why doesn't he seem to know what he is talking about when it comes to LGBT legislation and Congress? I have no idea, but the consequences are not pretty.
To get legislation through Congress, we need people who know the score.
When someone like Frank goes around saying "ENDA will be marked up this week or next" instead of saying "Everyone needs to call all the members of the House Education and Labor committee and demand that the get to work on ENDA markup!" then, duh, no one is going to make an effort to put additional pressure on those committee members to do anything.
If four months ago it had been known that it would take an incredible amount of work to have a chance at getting a repeal amendment into the Defense Authorization bill instead of it being a 'done deal', that might well have changed what LGBT groups were focused on in the months after November. Instead, panic has ensued on the cusp of the bill being considered by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Making grand pronouncements, as Joe Solomese did when he swore that DADT would be repealed in 2010, instead of demanding blood, sweat and tears to get it passed, is simply a losing strategy in both the short and long run. In the short run in un-catalyzes the very people you need to make things happen. And in the long run creating expectations that don't come to pass destroys the credibility of the leaders who create those expectations and produce cynicism in followers.
Many, including Frank, have criticized GetEqual for their tactics in recent weeks, but at least they aren't the ones duping the very people who would be willing to get out, make the calls, send the emails, advocate and march for equal rights; rather it is actions that they and other organizations like Knights Out have take which are now inspiring people (perhaps too late for DADT repeal) out of the complacency induced by some of the same people who are criticizing them.
Lead if you're going to lead, dammit, or at least have the decency to get out of the way.
You probably aren't a member of Congress, but you can get inspired by listening to Lt. Dan Choi speak today, and then...
Don't Ask Don't Tell Repeal:
If one of these Senators on the Armed Services Committee belongs to you, call them and tell them you want DADT repeal put into the Defense Authorization Bill. Tell them that there is no excuse for not doing it now, when in fact the window of opportunity to pass repeal may well vanish before the Defense Department issues its repeal report. Hell, even if none of them belong to you, call them anyway.
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Getting ENDA out of committee:
Here is a list of the members of the House Education and Labor Committee. The list has links to contact information for each member. All but a handful of the Democrats on that committee have sponsored ENDA. There is no reason it should not be voted out of committee, but the committee has yet to take it up. Call and tell them to make it happen!