Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Under the Radar

Little by little, the Obama administration is taking steps to bring about some equality for the LGBT community. Recently the president signed a memo that granted some of the benefits that married couples have to domestic partners of federal employees. Yesterday it was quietly announced that the president would be hosting a reception to mark the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which are considered to be the beginning of the gay-rights movement. And now it’s revealed that the administration is working to draft workplace rules against discrimination against transgendered people.

Lawyers for President Obama are quietly drafting first-of-their kind guidelines barring workplace discrimination against transgender federal employees, officials said Tuesday.

The guidelines will be in an updated federal handbook for managers and supervisors to be distributed and posted online in the next couple of months, and they could also be included in other materials for managers. They will list transgender people – those who identify their gender differently from the information on their birth certificates – as among several groups protected by antidiscrimination laws.

Though transgender men and women are not believed to make up more than a fraction of a percent of the federal work force, their inclusion in the discrimination guidelines is seen as a breakthrough by transgender and gay rights advocates.

There are a fair number of people who think that the Obama administration has been notably M.I.A. on queer issues such as repealing the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, and I included myself in that number. But perhaps it’s my Quaker nature that I also know that sometimes you can accomplish a lot more with quiet work behind the scenes that don’t create headlines and thereby draw the fire of the homophobes and the Republicans who are looking for any excuse to bash both the president and the gay community as a two-fer. As it is, changes that have been wrought by the Obama administration so far will have a more meaningful impact because they are the foundation of the issues of equality. Same-sex marriage gets the footage on the evening news and the fund-raising appeals from Focus on the Family, but simply making life easier for people in their everyday lives makes a difference.

HT to Autumn at Pam’s, and Melissa.