Here You Go: LGBT Rights Advances Under President Obama That President Romney Could Undo
The Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson has a nice roundup of info and interviews about some of the LGBT rights initiatives that have occurred under the Obama administration — some major, some minor — that could be affected if Mitt Romney took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
You’ll recall Romney’s flip-flopping record in the past — at one point in a Senate bid he claimed he would be more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy — he has now morphed into a full-blown anti-gay shill for the positions of the National Organization for Marriage and far right for this Presidential bid.
The Washington Blade has identified five regulatory changes and 16 sub-regulatory changes enacted by the Obama administration that could be reversed if Romney were elected to the White House. These changes include giving greater recognition to same-sex couples, protecting federal LGBT workers against discrimination and ensuring the federal government recognizes the correct gender of transgender people.
Major changes that were made under the Obama administration at the regulatory level include a memorandum requiring all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare funds to allow visitation rights for same-sex couples; lifting the HIV travel ban; and a Department of Housing & Urban Development rule prohibiting discrimination in federal public housing programs and federally insured mortgage loans.
The major problem the LGBT community faces with a life under Mittens is that most of the advances that have occurred during the Obama administration are what I called “Cinderella Crumbs” back in 2010:
A shiny, beautiful, breathtaking accomplishment that turns into a pumpkin at midnight— in this case, whenever a future homophobic president decides to rescind the baby step…Executive actions by the President that are “policy changes” or recommendations to agencies to broaden its interpretation of a policy or mission to be inclusive of LGBTs.
In other words, advances that did not involve legislative action. Mitt Romney cannot undo the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Hate Crimes Law, or the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without the help of Congress. But he could undo a host of positive changes. The Blade’s Johnson interviews LGBT activists who generally sound the alarm; notably dissenting is, unsurprisingly, Christian Berle, deputy executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans:
“As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney sustained executive orders providing for domestic partnership benefits including hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian state employees,” Berle said. “This action directly builds upon his record in leading companies like Bain Capital and Staples, which had strong nondiscrimination policies and partner benefits. This history both as a chief executive in the business sector and as governor of Massachusetts give precedence for sustaining President Obama’s positions on matters including hospital visitation.”
Yeah, except he also has a history, as governor, of reversing pro-equality policy.
According to MassEquality, Romney abolished the Governor’s Commission on GLBT Youth and rescinded an executive order prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the state workforce. Another Republican, former Gov. William Weld, had instituted those measures.
The Romney camp refused to comment on the piece; I think it’s clear that the press has to corner him on this issue, particularly as he attempts his move to the center — the social conservatives are already queasy about him, but he’s going to have to answer questions about this in order to clearly differentiate himself from the President. It’s particularly an issue for the LCR — will it endorse Mitt Romney if he decides to throw the rescind bone to the far right? Will it ask for him to state his position?
Below the fold, courtesy of HRC, is a full list of Cinderella Crumbs that can be undone by President Romney.
Some of these can be undone on a whim, others would involve concerted effort and time for Mittens to repeal.
Pro-LGBT policy changes under Obama
The Administrative Procedures Act provides safeguards against politically motivated policy switches. Thus repealing the policies below would involve a multi-year process.
- The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) adopted a regulation ending the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants.
- President Obama issued Presidential Memorandum in April 2010 directing HHS to issue regulations requiring all hospitals receiving Medicaid and Medicare to prohibit discrimination in visitation against LGBT people. HHS issued a final regulation that went into effect in early 2011.
- HUD issued final regulations in January 2012 prohibiting discrimination in federal public housing programs and federally insured mortgage loans. HUD also requires its grantees to comply with LGBT-inclusive state and local housing discrimination protections.
- The Office of Personnel Management published final regulations in the Federal Register expanding the eligibility for long-term care coverage to same-sex partners and sick leave to care for a same-sex partner.
- The federal Prison Rape Elimination Commission proposed national standards to reduce sexual abuse in correctional facilities, including standards regarding LGBT and intersex inmates. They were later instituted as a rule finalized by the Justice Department last month.
Sub-Regulatory Guidance/Policy Announcements
These are policy advances instituted by — and subject to the will of — the administration.
- The Department of Health and Human Services revised its funding guidance around abstinence-only-until-marriage sex education programs, requiring that recipient programs are inclusive of and non-stigmatizing toward LGBT youth.
- HHS, in partnership with the Department of Education and Department of Justice, launchedstopbullyingnow.com.
- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency recently released new 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards. These new standards provide guidance that aims to improve treatment of LGBT and HIV-positive people in detention facilities.
- In summer 2011, ICE published a memo and clarifying guidance providing that an individual’s family relationships, including a same-sex relationship, would be considered as a factor in labeling certain deportations as low-priority deportations.
- The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced a proposed regulatory change expanding the meaning of “members of a family residing in one household” for the purposes of the customs declaration form, which must be completed prior to re-entry to the United States.
- The DOJ issued an opinion clarifying that the criminal provisions of the Violence Against Women Act related to stalking and abuse apply equally to same-sex partners.
- The State Department revised the standards for changing a gender marker on a passport, making the process less burdensome for transgender people.
- In September 2011, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it ended the practice of allowing gender to be matched in its Social Security Number Verification System (SSNVS). This resulted in the immediate cessation of SSA sending notifications that alert employers when the gender marker on an employee’s W-2 does not match Social Security records.
- The State Department extended numerous benefits to the partners of Foreign Service officers, including diplomatic passports and access to emergency evacuation.
- The State Department reversed a Bush administration policy that refused to use a same-sex marriage license as evidence of a name change for passports.
- The Department of Education issued guidance clarifying when student bullying may violate federal law, distributed a memo outlining key components of strong state anti-bullying laws and policies and made clear to public schools that gay-straight alliances have a right to form and meet.
- The Department of Education published guidance and, in coordination with the Department of Justice, has pursued Title IX complaints filed by LGBT students experiencing harassment based on sex or sex stereotyping.
- OPM added gender identity to the equal employment opportunity policy governing all federal jobs.
- The Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that an employee can take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a same-sex partner’s child.
- The IRS clarified that domestic partners (and their children) can be designated beneficiaries for VEBA funding/payment purposes.
- The Census Bureau overturned the Bush administration’s interpretation of the Defense of Marriage Act and agreed to release data on married same-sex couples along with other demographic information from the 2010 Census.