A Bittersweet Day for Human Rights
The U.S. Senate voted 63-33 to advance legislation to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The final vote requiring a simple majority will occur later today and is anticipated to succeed. This discriminatory, shameful law will soon be a memory.
Unfortunately, despite having majority support, the DREAM Act has died in the Senate.
55 Senators, including Republican Sens. Lugar, Murkowski, and Bennett voted to advance the legislation, but 41 legislators, including several Democrats, voted not to. 60 votes were needed.
In the final minutes before the vote, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin pleaded with his colleagues from the floor to vote for the DREAM Act — or as he described it, an act of “political courage.”
“Many of you have told me that you’re lying awake at night, tossing and turning over this vote, because you know how hard it’s going to be politically, that some people will use it against you,” Durbin said. “But I might say, if you can summon the courage to vote for the DREAM Act today, you will join ranks with senators before you, who came to the floor of these United States and made history with their courage. Who stood up and said the cause of justice is worth the political risk.”
Sadly, there are elected officials who feel the cause of justice is not worth the political risk.
Still, a majority of U.S. Senators voted to advance this legislation. They deserve our thanks for listening to their hearts.
If not for the problematic U.S. Senate rules that allow for a minority of senators to block the will of the majority, we would be celebrating DREAM.
As Politico reported:
For the lawmakers who voted against the bill, “it will be a defining vote in their career,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group which has been fighting for the DREAM Act.
“They’re standing at the schoolhouse door, saying no to the best and the brightest of the Latino immigrant community,” he said, “and they will have a lot of explaining to do if they run for reelection or aspire to higher office.”
The majority of U.S. Senators who voted for this legislation tell us that a majority of Americans are receptive to humane immigration reform measures.
Standing on the Side of Love will continue to work with our interfaith and immigrant rights partners to demand justice for immigrants to this country. We will continue to put our bodies on the line to speak out against racist laws like SB 1070, which are born from fear and do nothing to fix our broken immigration system.
We will ask for an end to programs like Secure Communities that instill terror. And we still stand on the side of love when love is called for.
Meanwhile, we can celebrate the positive news at hand: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, another law born out of fear, is on its last legs. A measure that required silence, acquiescence, lies, untold personal sacrifice, and a suffocating closet will be replaced by a policy of non-discrimination.
The New York Times reported:
The vote was a historic moment that some equated with the decision to end racial segregation in the military.
“I don’t care who you love,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, said as debate opened. “If you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are.”
Mr. Wyden showed up for the Senate vote despite saying on Friday that he would be unable to do so because he would be undergoing final tests before his scheduled surgery on Monday for prostate cancer.
DADT repeal is by no means the be-all, end-all for LGBT civil rights legislation. Transgender soldiers are not considered part of the equation in DADT repeal. Same-sex spouses won’t receive the benefits that opposite-sex spouses do.
But passage of DADT repeal is, undoubtedly, progress.
As one discriminatory law is swept away, it is a sign that others will soon, too, join the history books, replaced by policies of non-discrimination, laws mandating that sexual orientation and gender identity can have no bearing on an employer’s hiring practices or a landlord’s rental applications.
It is a sign that our culture is shifting, however slowly. For those of us who remember the days of police raids, Anita Bryant, inaction by the Reagan Administration as AIDS swept the community, and scores of anti-gay sodomy and DOMA laws, it is a sign that things do, indeed, get better.
Thank you to everyone who worked to make this advancement possible. While the legislative results are bittersweet, there is no bitter in the heart of advocacy in our community — only the sweetness that comes when we stand on the side of love, and commit for the long haul.