on the (long) road toward equality

Several interesting — and important — things going on at a federal level.

In this article, Court win for same-sex couples seeking benefits, we see the first stages of chipping away at DOMA.

In a victory for gay rights advocates, a federal judge has ruled that state employees in California can sue for discrimination over the federal government’s exclusion of their same-sex spouses from a long-term health care program.

Emphasis is mine. The exclusion is due to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which — besides “defending” marriage — also explicitly denies federal benefits to same-sex couples. And it’s not just in California: last July a federal judge in Massachusetts declared the law unconstitutional as well (DOMA Unconstitutional: Massachusetts Federal District Judge Finds Section 3 of Defense of Marriage Act Unconstitutional).

Of course, the government is appealing the Massachusetts ruling as it is likely to appeal this one, but the shape of the opposition to DOMA is clear, and is on solid constitutional grounds, because DOMA isn’t about only marriage, but reaches into all the legal protections and benefits derived from marriage — and therein lies the basis of the inherent discrimination that can be challenged.

We also saw that an attempt to put a straight marriage only proposal on the ballot in DC was struck down: U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down D.C. Marriage Initiative Case. (Because D.C. is not a state, its court cases go straight to SCOTUS.) And rather predictably, Tony Perkins Whine[d] About DC Ruling.

Also, not that it wasn’t completely obvious to most of us, but to emphasize once more why DADT was so harmful to the military: GAO: 40 Percent Of DADT Discharges Were in “Critical” Roles or Spoke “Important” Languages. Look, I’m no fan of the military. I’d be happy in a world that didn’t need soldiers. But if you’re going to have something like this, do it right. Retain your best workers. Train them up. Don’t give a flying fuck about unimportant details like who they are sleeping with (and certainly don’t set up situations where they can be blackmailed because of your neanderthalistic stance, either). Look at job performance. Because an organization that keeps kicking out its best individuals? Not going to do real well in the long run. Now, of course, we need to be sure that the overturn of DADT is properly carried out, so keep the eye on that ball, too.

Another federal level decision with a long range impact: HUD Unveils Proposed Housing Nondiscrimination Rules, in which sexual orientation and gender identity are to be added to HUD’s anti discriminatory policy:

Today, Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled new regulations being proposed by HUD that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in several of the federal agency’s programs.

The proposed rules prohibit any inquiry into the sexual orientation or gender identity of people in the families being considered for loans, and clarify that “families” is already interpreted broadly, and should include those with LGBT individuals.

The new rules can be found in this PDF document (h/t @chrisgeidner).

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