I might be less suspicious about the proposed Domestic Partners Benefits Bill that’s currently not-winding its way through Congress had the Obama Justice Department not tried to use the mere existence of the proposed legislation to justify keeping DOMA as the law of the land. Yes, they did. It’s a rather creative, and sleazy, move for a supposed ally.
As for the substance, the bill would apply to some estimated 34,000 gay federal employees who have domestic partners. That’s nice. Basically, it’s like Congress considering a bill that helps a small town in Kansas. To be sure, the people of that small town should be pleased. And we share in their joy. But let’s be serious – we have an entire country, and people, in need. 34,000 isn’t even a drop in the bucket (see below). (And while DADT only affects a small number of gay people – those serving, or interested in serving – the ramifications of repealing the anti-gay law are huge. Just witness the profound (and positive) impact that integrating blacks into the military had on the country. It’s difficult to argue that this policy change, DPBO, has the same kind of profound impact.)
Had President Obama kept his promises to repeal DADT (and the current legislation does not), repeal DOMA (there’s no effort to even touch DOMA), and pass ENDA (very little effort there either), then things like this domestic partners bill helping, at most, 34,000 people would be small, but welcome, news. But he hasn’t yet kept those promises, and it’s widely assumed that after the November elections we may lose any chance at keeping any of those promises for years to come. 34,000 in exchange for that is simply unacceptable.
Since I know we’re going to hear from administration apologists about how cruel we are to not recognize the significance of 34,000 people, let’s do a little math. If you assume, conservatively, that gay people make up 5% of the US population, then there are 15 million of us in the US.
That means the DPBO bill benefits 0.23% of all gay people in America.
At that rate, we should have full equality some time around the next pass of Halley’s comet.