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A Bittersweet Day for Human Rights

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Dec 18, 2010


Today is bittersweet.

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.

Reported Politico:

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.

Dan Furmansky
Campaign Manager

7 Responses to “A Bittersweet Day for Human Rights”

  1. I’m saddened that you emphasize the bad news in this post. Repeal of DADT is tremendous good news for gay men & women & their straight allies. It’s a huge step in civil rights. You decry it’s not being 100%. Too bad.

    As a political activist who’s worked countless hundreds of hours toward love & justice, I am celebrating today a historic VICTORY for our friends at the Human Rights Campaign, and kudos for their terribly long and effective fight.

    It will show to a new generation: “NEVER GIVE UP!”
    so that’s my take-away.

  2. AND — I might add — we need to fight hard the next two weeks to revise the Senate rules on Jan 5, when for one day, democratic procedures return to the new Senate, and it’s possible to revise the filibuster rule. go to p://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4741359 and then google filibuster — if we get this cornerstone reform done, it’ll make possible progress on everything else.

  3. Darrell Goodwin says:

    I am also saddened by the emphasis on the bad news. It is also disapointing to see the implied animosity by declaring the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue” law as “shameful.” Prior to this law a person had to swear an oath that they were not homosexual before they could join the military. DADTDP was not a perfect solution, but it should not be maligned for I strongly feel it was a step in the right direction. I question how educated this writer is on history and facts of this issue and now any future postings. I find it amazing that intelligent people think change should happen quickly and need to realize that we will have to struggle to find common ground with each of those changes if we are to succeed in making a better tomorrow. Bravo that DADTDP is on the right track to being repealed, but come on… stop the hate of compromise.

  4. The glass is more than half full today. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell goes to the dustbin of history. We’ve come so far in 17 years, let alone the 1970s. Why downplay that?!?

    55 votes for DREAM is no slouch, either. Please don’t blame the rules. If it weren’t for 60 votes and the filibuster, I can only imagine the kind of law that would have been passed between 2001 and 2006. We must work harder and continue to be witnesses for standing on the side of love.

  5. Fred Small says:

    Repeal of DADT is a sweet victory. Failure to enact the DREAM Act is a bitter defeat. Because we are dedicated to justice, we can and must acknowledge both.

    The DREAMers aren’t giving up, and neither will we. We will stand on the side of love until love prevails everywhere.

  6. Lily Huang says:

    Today is a bittersweet today as Dan wrote. We can celebrate the victory of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell while, at the same time, grieve the loss of the brilliance, talent and energy of the hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who are effectively denied their dreams and full participation in our communities. While DADT was repealed, we still know that there will be disgusting violations against LGBTQ members in our military and in our everyday lives.

    This is our everyday fight and struggle. For people like us, this matters to us everyday and for the rest of our lives. It is important to be realistic of the situation that happened today and think about holistically what it means for the social justice community. Let’s stay together and make sure everyone can fulfill their potential and reach their dreams, whatever the may be. And let’s work for love and justice for everyone.

  7. roberto says:

    I was glad, and I’m very glad that DADT got repealed it’s a huge Victory for human rights activists like me. This coming years are going to be tough and frightening since most republicans have control over the house, while democrats remain in control of the senate. One of the things that worries me a lot is the attack on the 14 amendment which gives any person born in U.S land automatic citizen ship, it really worries me that these republicans may try to succeed in their awful work. I and other allies will be there calling our senators to block certain laws. I hope they never succeed as i do not Agree with what they want to do…being a Unitarian Universalist this proposed work against the 14 amendment does not meet any part of our principles…specially the one “To inherit worth of dignity of every person” Immigrants are not just a piece of thrash that you can attack and do what ever you want to them..we will be there STANDING ON THE SIDE OF LOVE to fight for them…finally I’m glad that the majority of Americans support an immigration reform…WE need one

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