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Congress Passes On Gay Bills, Goes Home


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Congress Passes On Gay Bills, Goes Home

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

October 1, 2006 - 4:00 pm ET

(Washington) Congress adjourned on the weekend without taking up a number of LGBT bills including one that would provide partner benefits for partners of federal workers, another that would include gays in hate crime laws, and a third that would have extended the Ryan White AIDS care act.

The only thing positive about the session was the defeat of the so-called federal marriage amendment.

The Republicans in the House failed to muster enough votes in July to advance the amendment that would ban same-sex marriage despite a last minute push from President Bush. (story)

"When activist judges insist on redefining the fundamental institution of marriage for their states or potentially for the entire country, the only alternative left to make the people's voice heard is an amendment of the Constitution," said a statement issued by the Administration.

Nevertheless, the measure fell 47 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed.

An attempt by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) to get legislation passed including gays and lesbians in federal hate crime laws failed. (story)

Kennedy has been trying to get the measure passed since 1999. This session he tacked it onto a national sex offender bill. He was forced to pulled it after Republicans threatened to block passage of the sex offender legislation and pin the blame on "liberal Democrats" and gay activists.

Kennedy vowed to keep up the fight. "Congress can't ignore the problem," he said. "They send the poisonous message that some Americans deserve to be victimized solely because of who they are."

The bill would have allowed the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting cases in which violence occurs.

Extending hate crimes law to include members of the LGBT community is endorsed by more than 175 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including: the National Sheriffs' Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police, U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.

A bipartisan attempt to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the ban on gays serving openly in the military, also failed to gain traction with the GOP leadership.

The Republican leadership refused to schedule the bill, authored by Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Massachusetts), and blocked attempts to move the legislation forward.

Meehan has promised to re-introduce the measure in the next session. Currently the repeal bill has 118 co-sponsors.

Since the passage of DADT a decade ago more than 11,000 men and women have been dismissed under "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" according to the Government Accountability Office. More than 800 of those service members were trained in skills deemed ‘mission-critical’ by the Pentagon.

The GAO also said that it has cost taxpayers more than $200 million to recruit replacements for LGBT enlisted service members who were discharged. (story)

A study conducted last year for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network concluded that the U.S. military could attract as many as 41,000 new recruits if gays and lesbians in the military were able to be open about their sexual orientation.

Last month legislation was introduced in the Senate that would extend family benefits to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal workers. (story)

The measure was sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Gordon Smith (R-Oregon). Among the co-sponsors were Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer of New York, Barbara Boxer of California, and Ted Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts.

The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act would provide benefits to federal employees' same-sex partners on the same basis as spousal benefits - including participation in retirement programs, compensation for work injuries and life and health insurance. In addition, the bill would subject federal employees with domestic partners to the same obligations as federally recognized married couples.

The Ryan White CARE Act was the victim of infighting over money. The reauthorization of the AIDS care bill peeled money away from the major cities to fund the fight against HIV in rural America.

The House passed legislation renewing the law 325-98 a week ago (story) but in the Senate Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey opposed blocked the bill.

New York and New Jersey stand to lose more than $70 million each under the revisions.

As members of Congress were packing up to return to their home districts Capitol Hill was rocked by a sex scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley (R - Florida). Foley submitted a letter of resignation from Congress on Friday in the wake of questions about e-mails he sent to a former male page. (story)

On the weekend the House leadership said it would encourage a criminal investigation of Foley, but questions persisted over how much the GOP leadership knew about the affair, and whether they had protected him.

©365Gay.com 2006

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