Hate Crimes Bill Frustrates Gay Rights Pundits

The Matthew Shepard Act prompts bloggers to vent frustration with Obama's commitment to gay rights

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Sexual orientation and gender identity are now included in the definition of a federal hate crime. When President Obama signed the legislation into law Wednesday, it was widely touted as a victory for gay rights groups. The Associated Press called the legislation, "the biggest expansion of the civil-rights era law in decades."

But some pro-gay rights pundits aren't celebrating. While they applaud the legislation for helping to prosecute hate crimes, they're taking the administration to task for failing to address their broader concerns. True political courage, they say, would mean addressing discrimination, repealing the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, advocating for gay marriage, and supporting gay rights on the ballot in Maine, where it is currently in question.

  • No Equality Yet  At The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan notes with frustration that the president "couldn't say the word 'gay'" at the bill's signing. That, he says, is a symbol of the Democratic Party's regard for gay rights. "Their agenda for the gays is pretty much the Democratic party's: Separate, quiet and just as much a victim special interest group as all the others. Better than the GOP's ('You're all going to hell, pervs.'). But no equality yet; and no candor. We really do have a president for the Human Rights Campaign, don't we? He's for gay rights, but not yet and shhhh!"
  • Why We Can't Wait  At The Washington Post, Andrew Kessinger says there's no reason equality should have to be put on hold for the war in Afghanistan, or anything else on the nation's packed agenda. "It is wrong to ask gay Americans to wait until every future war is won, every societal ill is treated and every business is booming before being granted equal protection under law."
  • How About Some Everyday Rights?  At The American Prospect, Alexandra Gutierrez says the gay rights movement may have the wrong priorities. "I do question whether the movement should have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours fighting for a bill that kicks in after damage is done when gays and lesbians can still be fired in most states for being gay," she writes. "The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would have a significant and concrete effect on how most gay people live their lives, but it's taken a backseat to the HRC's strangely single-minded campaign to get the Matthew Shepard Act passed."
  • No Political Courage  The gay blog Queerty criticizes Democrats for attaching the hate crimes bill to defense spending legislation instead of championing the principle of gay rights on its own. "You know what our favorite part of today's signing will be? Because it's really a Pentagon bill that's being approved, Defense Sec. Robert Gates — who oversees the discrimination of thousands of gay servicemen and women — will be by Obama's side. As he approves protections for the gays!"
  • Is This It?  At The Atlantic, Chris Geidner says the legacy of this legislation will depend on whether this is the beginning of Obama's real support for gay equality or a symbolic "trinket" given in place of real rights. "Will the legacy be that with its passage, the White House and Congress passed a watershed moment in LGBT equality to be followed in short order by action on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; the elimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell from our Armed Forces; and significant movement toward the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act? As Elizabeth Birch, the former head of the Human Rights Campaign, said at the evening reception, 'This was the moment that was required in order to have new laws follow. Or, will this be, like so often in legislative struggles, the single trinket doled out to a loyal constituency group until the next time the group demands action?'"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.