What Did House Democrats’ Secret Gay Rights Meeting Accomplish?


Legislators crowding around in a secret meeting? Deep inside Washington’s power brokering comes word that top House Democrats met yesterday to discuss gay rights legislation. And just what were they focusing on?

All but the Defense of Marriage Act, it appears. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led the meeting (which included The Three Gays, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, and Jared Polis) to plot gay rights strategy, including health care benefits for federal employees in same-sex relationships, passing ENDA (Frank introduced a bill this week, as expected), and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Mums the word since the meeting adjourned, relays Roll Call, but Frank insists “Democrats are in a very good place.” He also reveals that his trans-inclusive ENDA has the votes to pass, with five Republicans signing on board. Meanwhile, ENDA and federal health care benefits may be packaged into one bill. There is no report that repealing DOMA was discussed. But it all signals the legislators are making good on their promise to keep the ball rolling.

That top Congressional Democrats are (finally) meeting to find out how to pass these bills is excellent news. It’s also good news that we’re hearing about it; don’t think it’s an accident that news of Pelosi & Co. confabbing leaked out.

When it comes to our personal curiosity, meanwhile, we’ve got our eyes cast in one particular direction: toward Illinois Sen. Roland Burris.

Despite being in the clear with criminal perjury charges, Burris still faces an ethics committee inquiry over whether he properly disclosed ties to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, all of which could get in the way of his 2010 re-election campaign. Burris has revealed himself to be, in many ways, a gay rights ally, calling for the repeal of DADT at Chicago’s Gay Pride. And throughout his political career, Burris has made no secret of his support for hate crimes protections for gays, anti-discrimination measures, and HIV/AIDS funding. He is not, however, a same-sex marriage supporter. Still branded with a scarlet letter by many Democrats for his Blagojevich entanglement, who knows how much support Pelosi and The Three Gays will look to him for. But it appears he’s willing to provide it.