The new Democratic-controlled Congress is in a position to consider new initiatives. While Republican leaders focused on restricting gay rights, the shift in power means that new legislation broadening protection for lesbian and gay Americans can potentially be passed.
The three items on the table are:
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which has been proposed multiple times but always derailed. This legislation would effectively ban workplace discrimination against LGBTs, placing sexual orientation and gender identity in the same protected category as race, color, nationality, religion, gender, and disability status.
- Full Coverage: Lesbian and Gay Rights 101: Workplace Discrimination
New hate crimes legislation, which would add sexual orientation to the list of categories provided under hate crime legislation. Matt Barber of Concerned Women for America rather distressingly describes this legislation as "dangerous to freedom of conscience, to religious liberties, to free speech," which makes me wonder what on Earth they do at his church. Hate crime legislation does not, and under the First Amendment could not, ban hate speech, a distinction that conservative activists such as Barber seem to work very hard to blur.
- Full Coverage: Anti-Gay Hate Crime Prevention
And finally--and this one is a long shot--Congress may attempt to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" ban on gays in the military. This is something that's really best left to the executive branch under normal circumstances, but because the executive branch is at least 20 years behind the times on this issue, I can only wish Congress the best of luck. This legislation might generate more support than it otherwise would because of the recent revelation that Eric Alva, the first American soldier wounded in the Iraq War, is gay.
- Full Coverage: Lesbians and Gay Men in the Military