2013 was a banner year for the LGBT community. Here are the top Washington Blade photos of the year. (Washington Blade photos by Blake Bergen, Tyler Grigsby, Michael Key, Kevin Majoros, Damien Salas, Lee Whitman and Jon Wooten) Â
Two Democratic members of Congress â€” one gay and one bisexual â€” are incurring the wrath of LGBT activists for voting with House Republicans to delay certain portions of Obamacare in exchange for keeping the government in operation.
Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) were among nine Democrats on Monday who voted for a Republican-led resolution that provided funds for the government for fiscal year 2014, but included a provision delaying the individual mandate andÂ requiring members of Congress and their staffs to pay the full cost of insurance without the government subsidy.
Additionally, Maloney voted for another measure that includes the above policy items in addition to calling for a conference committee with the Senate, which would likely mean some give on health care reform.
Both Maloney and Sinema also joined Republicans on Sunday to vote for repeal of the tax on medical devices as part of Obamacare.
Each House proposal was rejected by the Senate, which has insisted on a bill that only continues funding for the government, leading to the stalemate that caused the government shutdown on Tuesday.
Michael Rogers, a D.C.-based LGBT rights advocate, said the vote means Sinema and Maloney are Democrats in name only.
“I am a progressive so I wish Sinema and Maloney were more concernedÂ about the American people than with their reelection,” Rogers said. “When DemocratsÂ stand for Democratic principles we win. If these two people won asÂ out LGBT people, surely they would not have been tossed out stickingÂ with their caucus. It is sellouts like Sinema and Maloney who, asÂ DINOs, are more than willing to cave in to the crazy demands of theÂ right.”
Michaelangelo Signorile, a gay New York activist and radio host on SiriusXM, took to Twitter to express his indignation.
— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) October 1, 2013
John Aravosis, who’s gay and editor of AMERICAblog, also had harsh words for the two lawmakers, who ran as openly gay/bi candidates and took donations from the LGBT community.
“I think it’s abominable,” Aravosis said. “No Democrat, let alone a gay or bisexual one,Â should be working to undercut health care protections for Americans,Â let alone helping John Boehner do anything.”
The other openly gay lawmakers in the U.S. House â€” Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicciline (D-R.I.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) â€” didn’t join Maloney or Sinema in these votes.
Maloney and Sinema voted against the most drastic proposal from House Republicans to attach a one-year delay of health care reform to the spending bill for fiscal year 2014.
In a statement, Maloney defended his vote for delaying the individual mandate by pointing to the administration.
â€śI strongly support the presidentâ€™s decision to give employers more time to comply with the law, and I believe that we should give families the same flexibility weâ€™re giving to our small businesses,” Maloney said.
Maloney also explained his support for eliminating health care subsidies for government employees by saying the playing field for public and private workers should be equal.
â€śFamilies and businesses in the Hudson Valley are not getting special subsidies from Obamacare and neither should members of Congress or the White House,â€ť Maloney said.
In a separate statement, Sinema defended her votes by saying they ensure individuals can sign up for health care plans without “being punished” for failing to purchase adequate healthcare coverage.
“Itâ€™s now been proven that too many states are not ready to implement the marketplaces,” Sinema said. “Itâ€™s not fair to punish people who donâ€™t have the information they need to make informed decisions. Arizonaâ€™s hard-working families need transparency and certainty about this healthcare law and its implementation. A one-year delay of the individual mandate will ensure that Arizonans get that certainty.”
SinemaÂ also said health care subsidies for government employees shouldn’t happen with a government shutdown in effect.
“Additionally, I supported tonight’s amendment because members of Congress should not ask the government to pay for their healthcare while Americans at home suffer during government shutdown,” Sinema said.
Neither the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor the Democratic National Committee responded to the Blade’s request for comment on Sinema and Maloney joining House Republicans. Shin Inouye, a White House spokesperson, is on furlough and unable to respond to media requests.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed the openly gay/bi candidates and called for donations from LGBT people for the candidates, didn’t respond to a request for comment. The Human Rights Campaign also endorsed both candidates and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sinema and Maloney have been active on LGBT-specific issues since their election to Congress. They voted for an LGBT-inclusive version of Â the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization and signed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.
Dana Beyer, a Chevy Chase, Md.,-based transgender activist, said the LGBT community shouldn’t judge Sinema and Maloney too harshly for their votes because “these late nightÂ political machinations areÂ generally theater” and don’t say anything about the lawmakers’ overall voting records.
“This issue isn’t about the LGBT community; it’s about America,” Beyer said. “They should be judged on a much broader set of criteria and values than this one vote, and I hope people take the context into account.”
A group of 10 House members comprised of five Republicans and five Democrats is amping up the pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring to the floor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
In a Dec. 3 missive, the bipartisan group of lawmakers â€” led by gay Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and bisexual Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) â€” call on Boehner to “bring this timely and commonsense legislation to a vote” before the end of the 113th Congress.
“Job discrimination against any American creates an uneven playing field that runs contrary to the basic notion of equality and our economic efficiency,” the lawmakers write. “What matters most is not that we share the exact same beliefs as our co-workers or employees, but that we take pride in our work, respect our co-workers and customers, and get the job done.”
The five Republicans who signed the letter are the five Republican co-sponsors of the bill: Reps. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) and Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.).
On the other side of the aisle, the five Democrats who signed the letter are Maloney and Sinema as well as gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).
The legislation already passed the Senate last month in a historic 64-32 bipartisan vote. Ten Republicans voted with the Democratic caucus in approving the bill.
In the push to bring it to a House vote, proponents of the bill, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the White House, have said sufficient votes are present for passage if the legislation comes to the floor.
The lead signers of the letter â€” Maloney and Sinema â€” had previously incurred the wrath of progressive LGBT leaders for joining the House Republicans in votes over Obamacare that led to the shutdown of the federal government.
In remarks about economy mobility at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday, President Obama encouraged passage of ENDA as he rattled off a series of legislative items he supports.
“Itâ€™s time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers canâ€™t be fired for who they are or who they love,” Obama said.
Despite these efforts, a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act seems in doubt. Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesperson, said in response to the letter, “The Speaker has been clear on this issue.”
In fact, momentum on the bill seems to have stalled in the weeks following the Senate vote. Although the bill was gaining supporters in the House at the time of the Senate vote and now has 201 sponsors, the latest additions are all Democrats and no additional co-sponsors have been added since Nov. 18.
LGBT workers are apparently caught in a standoff between the White House and Congress as Boehner has consistently said he opposes the legislation and President Obama continues to withhold an executive order barring LGBT workplace discrimination among federal contractors.
Asked by the Washington Blade during his news conference last week whether the growth of co-sponsors demonstrates the need for allowing a vote on the bill, Boehner reiterated he sees no need for ENDA.
“As I said last week, I’m opposed to discrimination in any case, but I don’t believe that we need additional frivolous litigation in the employment area,” Boehner said.
Watch as members of the LGBT Caucus in the U.S. Congress react to today’s Supreme Court rulings.
Representatives Polis, Cicilline, Malone and more share their feelings immediately after marriage decisions come down.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute held a celebration at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)
A record number of lesbian, gay and bisexual candidates were elected to the U.S. House this year, nearly doubling the number of out representatives serving in the lower chamber of Congress.
Gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) won re-election, and on the same night, out candidates Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Takano of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin won their races. The new additions â€” minus Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who are leaving the U.S. House â€” means LGB representation in the chamber will jump from four lawmakers to seven.
Maloney, who will be the first openly gay U.S. House member from New York, said upon the announcement that he won his bid to unseat Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) that voters in the state’s 18th congressional district voted for change.
â€śAcross four counties on two sides of the Hudson River, in hundreds of schools, firehouses, community centers, in the Democratic vote of a quarter million of our neighbors, the people have settled this debate,” Maloney said. “They have closed this campaign.”
Sinema will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress and Takano will become the first openly gay person of color to have a House seat. Pocan’s election means Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district will maintain gay representation as Baldwin heads to the U.S. Senate.