dept. of justice

Obama’s Civil Rights Czar Promises to Protect the Queers. Believe Him?


Do you know what the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division looked like under George W. Bush? For one, liberals were kept out of the upper ranks of the department, and new hires and promotions were made based on politics, not merit. But what Americans saw was this: Less focus on going after broad institutional discrimination his areas like housing, employment, and voting, and more focus on individual cases, where the rights of religious institutions were often defended. So what’s changed under Obama? The gays are getting some protections.

That’s the word from assistant attorney general Tom Perez, who’s running the Civil Rights Division. Part of a mass hiring and “recharging” of the unit, Perez says he’s reversing the Bush administration’s tactics and going after broad examples of discrimination. Including where gays are targeted.

Perez addressed the troops yesterday: “We must fight for fairness and basic equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters who so frequently are being left in the shadows [and to] ensure that there’s a level playing field in which our LGBT brothers and sisters are judged by the content of their character.” And it’s legislation like ENDA that will help bolster this mission.

Cue the knee-jerk reactions from the religious right. Here’s Focus on the Family Action’s senior director Carrie Gordon Earll: “Too often it’s religious liberty that’s at stake when homosexuality is promoted in our society. The rights of people of faith who adhere to a biblical view of sexuality should not be crushed under the Obama administration’s political promises to homosexual activists.” We’d argue: The rights of people of this country who adhere to equality should not be crushed by fear tactics of religious zealot activists.

Naturally, we’re enthused by Perez’s comments. But we prefer to see a little thing called “action” from the Obama administration, so we’ll be hanging out for that.