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Sunday, January 16, 2011

How an Anti-Gay Law in El Paso Punishes Gay and Straight Citizens

By Asher Huey -

This past election cycle, a group of social conservatives got together to try and make life just that much harder for the LGBT community. Nothing out of the ordinary, right? Well, they messed up and also made life harder for some people they don't hate, and now everyone is trying to figure out how to fix it.
This time they set their sights on El Paso, Texas. They sponsored a ballot measure blocking the city from granting health-care benefits to same-sex partners. They ran a campaign around traditional family values by limiting these benefits to "city employees and their legal spouse and dependent children."
But the measure, which passed with 55 percent, was so poorly worded that they accidentally barred benefits from some 200 other people, and the number could supposedly grow to 10,000 over the next few years. There are many people who receive benefits, but are technically not city employees, including elected officials, retirees, contractors for agencies (i.e. Transportation Board) and grandchildren.
Well, now people are mad. Because it's okay to legislate against the gays, who cares about their health care, right? But God help us if we block benefits from elected officials.
So, the city council considered restoring the benefits to the non-gays. Local groups sued. A judge has temporarily blocked implementation of the hateful policy. And now the El Paso City Council is considering putting it back on the ballot.
There are so many issues with this, so let's take them one by one.
The fact that this day in age a measure like this can pass with 55% of the vote in a decently large city is a problem. The LGBT community has made great strides toward equality and acceptance; everything from positive media portrayals to legislative victories have worked to turn public opinion in our favor. But the disconnect comes in places like this where we clearly need to be more proactive in reaching out, engaging the community, and fighting blatant discrimination. As we do this, especially in places like Texas which are not known for progressive values, people will stop considering hateful measures and legislation permissible. Because what could be more hateful than possibly condemning a person to death, by denying their access to health care? Doing so is entirely urn-Christian and lacks any sort of value of human life.
The judge's response is, perhaps, the brightest point in this whole incident. We should see it as encouraging that the judge is recognizing clear constitutional issues involved. There is that whole equal protection clause that religious conservatives find so hard to grasp.
But the city council's timid reaction is disturbing. Considering restoring benefits to some people, rather than all people, is unacceptable. Gay couples need and deserve benefits as much as any straight couple. And then the city council considering putting the measure back on the ballot is terrifying.
At the very least, this whole incident should highlight the problems with voting on people's rights. The truth is, matters of equality should not be up to the voters. The city council should stand up for the LGBT community and overturn this discriminatory law.
The religious right won't be happy. If the courts overturn it, they will decry "activist" judges, even though we know that they don’t exist. If the council overturns it they will decry them overturning the will of the people. If voters overturn it the religious right will decry us rejecting Gods law. But fortunately we have a secular government that is not beholden to “Gods law.” There is no reason behind their argument, only fear and hate. And so the City Council, public officials with a sworn duty, must stand up and do their job; create a functioning, nondiscriminatory government that protects the rights of minorities.

petition test -

Please Stand Up For Equality


LGBT families are families like any other. They deserve the same protection and benefits as any other family. So I ask that you immediate pass legislation reinstating benefits for all families.

The council has considered either reinstating benefits for non-LGBT families or putting the measure back on the ballot. Neither option is acceptable.

To reinstate the benefits for non-LGBT families clearly be discriminatory. Having a discriminatory policy in place would be a blemish on the city. Denying benefits to same sex couples and families is entirely unfair.

Another ballot measure is just as wrong. The public should have no say on equal protections. It is a simple matter of equality.

Discrimination is wrong, whomever it's against, whether race, gender, creed, sexual orientation, or any other attribute.

I ask that you overturn this discriminatory policy.

Thank you,

[Your name here] 


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