Saturday, May 30, 2009

Count, Serve and Be Remembered - By Mark R. Kerr

For Gays and Lesbians to actually count as individuals or couples by the government (at least in each Census), to be able to serve in the military and to be remembered, it is time to speak out and up for their rights as individuals, citizens and couples.

With the approval by the U.S. Congress and the signature of then President Bill Clinton of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, as well as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the policy prohibiting Gays and Lesbians from serving openly and honestly in the country’s armed services in 1993, more Congressional action would be necessary to undo was enacted into law and to be a full part of this country and not just a rating’s grabber, for the media, come November, February and May of each respective year.

Open Lesbian Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tammy Baldwin, D-WI and 52 other House Members (including Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva) have sent a letter to Peter Orszag, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and in charge of the U.S. Census, urging that Gay and Lesbian couples be counted in the upcoming Census in 2010.

Contact Mr. Orszag and let him know Gay and Lesbian Couples must be counted. Either through postal mail at The Office of Management and Budget, 725 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20503, Phone (202) 395-3080, Fax (202) 395-3888 or at and put in subject line “Gay and Lesbian couples must be counted in Census!”

Meanwhile, legislation introduced (H.R. 2460) in Congress requiring most employers to provide at least seven days of paid sick leave a year for most employees could be a major boon to same-sex families. U.S. Representative Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) filed the Healthy Families Act, which would include all companies with 15 or more workers and guarantee employees one-paid hour off for each 30 hours worked, enabling them to earn up to seven paid sick days a year. Employees could use the leave provided by the Act to attend to their own medical needs or the medical needs of children, parents, spouses or any other individual “whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

H.R. 2460 was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor, and in addition to the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, and House Administration. Call or E-mail your Member of Congress at, or to let them know to support this measure.

After hedging, hemming and hawing, the White House, after considerable pressure put on by interest groups, progressive media outlets and from the resulting fallout from news accounts of individuals who served their country in the military where fired for being Gay or Lesbian, has stated that the 16-year old policy, known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is under review and that a policy to overturn the measure is being worked on.

Take action by going online to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network website, and tell President Obama, the U.S. Congress and the military that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” must be overturned. Since his inauguration and the swearing in of the 111th Congress in January of this year alone, more than 200 servicemembers, who have served this country admirably, have been fired for being Gay or Lesbian.

H.R. 2517, also known as the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act of 2009, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, to give the domestic partners of federal employees the same benefits, and require of them the same obligations, as the spouses of federal employees.

Sponsored by open Lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-WI, H.R. 2517 would require same-sex domestic partners of federal employees living in a committed relationship, be eligible for benefits such as health care, long-term care, family and medical leave, and federal retirement benefits. Domestic partners would also be subject to the same responsibilities as the spouses of federal employees, such as financial disclosure requirements and anti-nepotism policies.

H.R. 2517 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration. U.S. Representative John Conyers, D-MI, a longtime friend and supporter of the community is the Chair of the Judiciary Committee, but he needs to be contacted on this bill to get hearings scheduled. Representative Conyers can be reached online at his Congressional website at the following address:

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