Back in March, during oral arguments before the Supreme Court on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Chief Justice John Roberts, echoing the claims of anti-gay leaders, described gays and lesbians as an all-powerful "lobby," seemingly able to bend politicians to its will. Because gays are "politically powerful," they may not warrant equal protection under the Constitution, he suggested, because "political figures are falling over themselves" to support gay civil rights. It was a breathtaking statement since the logic could be used to make the same argument regarding protections for Jews, blacks or women.
And, judging from the recent actions of those "political figures," it was completely false. Just fast forward two months: While we wait for the Supreme Court's decision on DOMA (as well as Prop 8) any day now, the Democratic President of the United States isn't exactly falling all over himself for gays, refusing for over a year now to sign an executive order banning employment discrimination against LGBT people among federal contractors. In the face of relentless pressure from activists, and calls from prominent LGBT donors to withhold money from the Democrats, Obama doesn't seem even close to signing what the White House now dubs the "hypothetical" order. Every day he waits, companies like Exxon Mobil, which refuse to implement anti-discrimination policies for gay and transgender people, are able to fire LGBT people, many of whom tremble in the closet at work, fearful of losing their jobs. Doesn't exactly sound like the omnipotent gay lobby, does it?
Democrats in the Illinois House, even with a supermajority in the legislature, also didn't fall all over themselves for gays and lesbians in Illinois two weeks ago, when they couldn't muster the votes to pass a marriage equality bill. After months of anticipation, and with Gov. Pat Quinn ready to sign the bill that had already passed the state senate, the chief sponsor of the bill decided not to call a vote before the legislative session ran out, giving cover to legislators who clearly didn't get the memo from the all-powerful gay lobby.
And the only people Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were falling all over themselves for three weeks ago were Republicans, like Senator Lindsey Graham, who threatened to torpedo landmark immigration reform legislation if it included a provision to help bi-national gay couples stay together rather than have one of the partners face deportation. The fact that Democrats fell for the GOP bluster so quickly and easily, kicking gays to the curb even while knowing the GOP leadership is desperate to pass an immigration bill, only underscores how gays are a minority group whose rights are always precarious.
"The most vulnerable members of our community relied on [ New York] Senator Schumer and [California] Senator Feinstein to stand up for us and end decades of catastrophic and irreparable harm to our families caused by DOMA and our exclusion from U.S. immigration law," wrote Lavi Soloway of the DOMA Project. It's pitiful and insulting that Schumer and Feinstein, as well as Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, also one of the "gang of eight" senators who crafted the immigration legislation, claim to be champions of LGBT rights.
It also demonstrates that even in this time when some pundits claim gays have arrived, our supposed friends are still throwing us overboard, subjecting us to ongoing discrimination. Here's hoping that, even if John Roberts isn't among them, five justices of the Supreme Court get that.