Fundies freaking after White House won’t commit to vetoing ENDA, admits WH staffers helped draft legislation

Time for some crow.

I wrote a few weeks back about how odd it was that George Bush’s White House was being so quiet about its views on ENDA, and that it was odd that neither Bush nor his staff were even hinting at a veto. Some raised the point that formal veto threats often aren’t issued until right before the vote, but still, the White House’s silence struck me as odd.

Well, I’m not the only one struck.

Now, let me say first that religious right crusader Peter LaBarbera is a bit of an odd duck. But he’s a duck who has worked as an anti-gay expert at the Family Research Council and as one of the men at the Concerned Women for America. And more importantly, Peter, more so than many of the haters who work for the religious right, “gets it” in terms of the cultural impact of the gay civil rights battle (meaning, he understands that our small advancements are incredibly dangerous for his cause). Fortunately, Peter himself is so personally goofy that few listen to him.

This is from WorldNetDaily (another goofy mouthpiece of the far-right that is widely read and quoted by the far-right):

“Americans For Truth has learned that a White House official has boasted to pro-family leaders attending a private administration briefing that White House staffers were involved in the negotiations to craft expanded religious exemption language for the new ENDA bill,” according to Peter LaBarbera’s Americans For Truth organization.

“At the briefing, the White House official did not commit to the assembled evangelical leaders that the president would veto [ENDA], saying that they will wait to see the bill’s final language, according to our source. This is troubling in that vetoing ENDA in any form is regarded as a ‘no-brainer’ by pro-family activists, who are counting on Bush to stop it,” he continued

Three things we learn from Peter.

1. White House staffers were involved in negotiating ENDA’s language. That’s huge, if true. It means that the White House either isn’t sure whether it will veto ENDA (or they think they may support it), and therefore they want the bill as “good” as possible for their side. Or it means that the White House isn’t sure that they can stop ENDA – e.g., they fear that it may be added to some must-pass legislation that they’ll be reluctant to veto, like an appropriations bill.

The White House simply doesn’t negotiate the language of legislation that it doesn’t think is going to pass or that it plans on killing.

2. The White House saying that they’re going to wait and see what the final language of ENDA is before they decide on a veto – and telling this privately to religious right leaders – is also huge. This implies that there is some language, some version, of ENDA that might prove acceptable to the White House. And in any case, why wouldn’t they hint to the religious right that they’re going to veto ENDA – seems like a no-brainer – unless of course they’re not sure they are.

3. The United ENDA coalition, which is advocating that we not pass ENDA until America, and Congress, are ready to vote for transgender (e.g., transsexuals, cross dressers, butch women, fey men) civil rights, has been claiming that ENDA without the transgender provisions is toothless. Well, it’s interesting that the religious right doesn’t seem to think so. They think that ENDA opens the floodgates for our civil rights:

“ENDA would ultimately give liberal judges the authority to subjectively determine who qualifies for the exemption. It’s the goose that laid the golden egg for homosexual activist attorneys, and it would open the floodgates for lawsuits against employers who wish to live out their faith and even those who don’t,” he said…. “Failure to veto ENDA would be a devastating defeat for pro-family forces and a huge gift to homosexual lobbyists…. He said it is a dangerous precedent to install in federal law “rights” based on changeable homosexual/bisexual behavior…. “It must be remembered that top homosexual strategists now assert that their ‘moral’ claim (the right not to be treated differently based on their ‘sexual orientation’) trumps our religious/moral obligation to oppose homosexuality,” LaBarbera said.

The religious right understands the cultural, legal, and political implications of passing ANY federal gay civil rights law, regardless of how “toothless” it is, or is claimed to be.

I wrote repeatedly about my inkling that ENDA could very well become law this year, in spite of the naysayers who said that Bush would definitely veto, that there was no way around his veto, and that I was either naive or a liar (in addition to being a racist, misogynist, native-American hater, bigot, rich, white, transphobe, homocentrist). Well, the religious right doesn’t appear as unequivocal about that veto, and neither does the White House.

Then again, the United ENDA campaign run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the campaign that has called for ENDA to be killed unless it includes transgendered people, and if it includes transgendered people the bill is killed anyway since it doesn’t appear to have the votes with them in) has publicly called for the gay, lesbian, bisexual (but not trans) version of ENDA, the one the full House will vote on later this week, to be killed, and they haven’t rescinded that call – and as a result, numerous state coalition members of United ENDA are still calling for ENDA to be killed.

If United ENDA has its way, the religious right can stop worrying. Later this week, 25 million gays and lesbians may be derailed from getting their civil rights recognized by a house of Congress for the first time in US history. But the big question is who will be cheering louder if ENDA doesn’t pass? Peter LaBarbera or United ENDA?

PS As an aside, I’ve just learned that there’s at least one senior transgender leader in America who is married (and I’m sure other straight transgendered people are married). That’s nice, and I support their right to marry. But I do find it odd that the gay community is being asked (well, told) to put our employment rights on hold until the transgender community can get theirs, but the transgender community isn’t putting its marriage rights on hold until we get ours. Then again, I’d never ask them to put their rights on hold until I got mine.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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