In the next 80 days candidates for congressional, supervisorial and mayoral posts will be making their pitches to the GLBT community for money, volunteers and votes. Consider withholding support until they commit themselves to two major issues.
Give Veterans’ Benefits to Disabled Gays and Lesbians Discharged Prior to Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The gay men and women who served this country “honorably,” and who whose government “dishonored” them through wrongful discharge, deserve to their veterans’ benefits. This is especially critical for those who suffered debilitating injury while in service.
At a recent meeting of Democrats for Equality, I asked Congressman Bob Filner, who is the ranking member of the House veterans committee if he supported giving benefits for those discharged under DADT. Filner said “no.” He said publicly that he wanted to wait until more time elapsed after the repeal of DADT.
Filner’s answer hardly pleased the gay and lesbian Democrats who, like me, know of many tragic cases of veterans who were not only traumatized and injured during their service, but suffered additional harm through the discharge process.
Congressmen Filner and Brian Bilbray (or Scott Peters, should he be elected) should both get efforts moving so that the veterans administration can accept petitions for benefits, especially for our disabled vets. Given their clout in both parties, a letter from Filner/Bilbray to the president and Secretary of the VA should move this forward now. This is the right thing to do.
This issue is such a no-brainer that gay and lesbian voters should withhold support until Filner, Bilbray, Peters and City Councilman Carl DeMaio all pledge to do the right thing. This is a nonpartisan issue.
Fight Efforts of the National Boy Scouts to Revoke Local BSA Charter
A few weeks ago the national board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reaffirmed its policy of discriminating against gay leaders. The board refused allow local chapter like ours to opt out of the policy.
In short, a parent like Dave Roberts, who has sons in the BSA, and is a candidate for county Board of Supervisors, cannot serve as a leader within the BSA. Roberts told me that he and his partner cannot be active parents like others because of the policy. That’s a loss for our local youth, given Roberts’ stellar background as a public official.
There are some within the GLBT community who expressed that it is wrong for Roberts to have kids in the local BSA. But I agree with Roberts. He can work from within to change the policy. His family’s presence in the local BSA is an asset, not a liability for the BSA.
Dan McAllister, county treasurer-tax collector and a long-time official with our local BSA, told me in June that “Dave Roberts is terrific.”
McAllister and even presidential candidate Mitt Romney abhor the national’s policy and the problems and litigation that it has caused for our local group, which leases 18 acres of city property in Balboa Park for well-less than market value. The lease is subsidized by taxpayers. No question there. And, legally, the city can revoke the lease at any time. No question there. I wrote the local ordinance 22 years ago that prohibits city subsidies to groups that engage in bias.
But we’re going to prevail soon and there’s no reason to inconvenience kids now.
As the national BSA explained a few weeks ago, chapters like ours would lose their charters if they defied the policy and allowed gay men like Roberts to serve as “leaders.”
Congress should prohibit the BSA from revoking a charter of a local chapter that failed to practice discrimination. But congressional action is unlikely, even though many Republicans disagree with the BSA policy. No federal or state judge should lend the power of the state to enforce a “discriminatory” policy, especially when a local chapter like ours is located on public property.
Years ago the Supreme Court recognized the right of the BSA, as a purely private group, to engage in discrimination. However, the Court last year made clear that such groups cannot engage in bias while receiving public subsidy.
While the saga continues, there is something that DeMaio, Filner, supervisor candidate Steve Danon and Roberts can do. They can pledge to make sure that, at the very least, the city places a sign outside Camp Balboa. The sign can simply state the obvious: “Neither the State of California nor the City of San Diego condones discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The City of San Diego is committed to banning all forms of arbitrary bias by groups receiving public subsidy.”
Every child, parent and taxpayer who enters Camp Balboa should be reminded of this. Further, the road that is used to access Camp Balboa should be given a name: “Charles McKain Way,” named after the first openly gay member of the county Human Relations Commission, someone who devoted his life and career to advancing civil rights.
As for payment for the sign, that’s easy. Through an intermediary, I advised Scott Peters, who, as a councilman, cast the crucial vote allowing the BSA a renewed lease, to pay for the design, construction and placement of the sign outside Camp Balboa. Peters hasn’t responded. But he should erase this taint. Peters has spent more than a $1 million on his campaign for Congress. He can spend the money for this sign.
The candidates can issue their responses here. In the meantime, I urge all of you to email the candidates and urge them to do the right thing.
Robert DeKoven is a professor at California Western School of Law. In 1990, he authored the city ordinance that prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation (also known as the Human Dignity Ordinance). As a columnist for the Gay and Lesbian Times, DeKoven penned five hundred columns covering law and politics.
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