Thursday, March 01, 2007

Breakthrough year seen for gay rights bills

The first federal gay rights bills are likely to pass a newly Democratic Congress this year.

At least two measures should win approval this year: a hate-crimes bill which would expand existing federal provisions to include acts of violence against gays and lesbians, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which would outlaw workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation (as well as gender identity). Also on the table -- although with more doubtful prospects -- will be a measure seeking repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that bans openly gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the military.

All three measures surfaced in previous sessions of Congress, at times winning significant bipartisan backing but always falling short of final passage. This year, with Democrats now in control and many Republicans likely to join in support, the hate-crimes and workplace bills are widely expected to prevail. It is not yet clear whether President Bush will sign or veto them.

It's about time these protections are put in place, and I'm holding out hope that we'll see a repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" - a ridiculous policy which has caused hundreds of highly skilled troops to be expelled for no other reason than they are openly gay.

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