By a vote of 249-175, Congress passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which gives federal hate crimes protection to queers and provides federal funding for local and state law enforcement agencies to investigate hate crimes. Generally voting along party lines, the Democratic majority pushed the bill through, which now heads to President Obama’s desk.
But then there’s the case of Alabama Rep. Artur Davis, the only eligible member of the Congressional Black Caucus who did not vote for the bill. Surprised? Don’t be. Back in 2007, Davis famously became the only CBC member not to vote for the Employee Non-Discrimination Act with a faulty excuse about how it would impact small businesses and religious organizations (namely, that it wouldn’t). (Two other representatives voted no because that version of ENDA did not include transgender protections.) Davis’ record of supporting gay rights is effectively zero. In fact, he’s not just neutral on the issue — he’s against equality.
When it comes to how Alabama’s representatives voted, Davis is in the majority: All of Alabama’s reps voted “no” on the Matthew Shepard Act, even “Democrats” Bobby Bright and Parker Griffith.
But when it comes to how Congress’ black reps voted, he’s in the stark minority. (As Rod 2.0 notes about other CBC members who did not vote yes: “Illinois Sen. Roland Burris, of course, did not vote on the House bill. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Donna Christian-Christensen are non-voting delegates. G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Al Green of Texas missed the roll call but previously voted for Hate Crimes and ENDA and have solid pro-gay records.”)
If that’s not bad enough? Davis has his sights set on becoming Alabama’s first black governor. Which would be a huge achievement for people of color; a black man becoming a former slave state’s leader. But when it comes to the gay community, it’s most definitely a step back. In a time when our 50 states are seeing such momentum behind marriage equality, Davis wouldn’t just be a roadblock, he’d be a tidal wave in the opposite direction. This, from a man who represents a state that just a few decades ago would’ve preferred him in chains.