4 The Star / Dec. 9,1983
U.S. Congress Looks at Important Gay Issues
By Larry Bush
took up a variety of issues before their winter recess that have important implications for gay people, including hearing a
proposal that the Equal Rights Amendment legislation be amended to bar civil
rights for gays, a review of a Reagan proposal to subject nearly four million American workers to sporadic lie detector tests
about their reliability, a revamp of the
U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and efforts
to amend Administration proposals on
"acceptable" charities to which federal
workers may donate.
The House Judiciary Committee heard
testimony from anti-ERA crusader Phyllis Schafly of the Eagle Forum asking that
the proposed Equal Rights Amendment
include a new provision that would block
any court from extending civil rights to
lesbians and gay men. The ERA, which
died at the state level only three states
short of ratification in 1982, was reintroduced in the current congress to once
again wend its way through the process.
According to Schafly, the key reason for
blocking civil rights for gays at this time is
AIDS, and in her pitch she suggests that
airline attendants who are gay be fired to
insure the safety of any passengers who
might accidently find the steward's blood
in their food as a result of a cut during the
Congressional sources indicate that
Rep. James Sensenbrunner will lead an
effort to attach Schafly's amendment during the full Judiciary Committee proceedings. While the amendment is expected to
fail, it is also expected to provide a forum
for heated discussions of the "threats"
In Rep. Jack Brooks' (D-TexJ government operations committee, there was a
furor of activity over new Reagan Administration proposals to tighten national
security by subjecting any workers with
access to classified documents to random
lie detector tests. According to testimony
at the hearings, about four million American workers—1.5 federal workers and 2.5
workers in the private sector contracting
with federal departments—would be
affected by the random checks.
Each federal department follows its own
guidelines on what constitutes "reliable"
workers, with some publicly admitting
that they want to know which employees
are gay. Brooks' committee took a dim
view of the Reagan proposal, as have
senators in a counterpart committee, and
it now appears unlikely that the proposal
will swing into full effect without some
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) wrung
changes out of a different Administration
department in October. The Reagan
Administration had announced earlier
this year proposals to deny groups federal
grants or contracts if they were doing
"grass roots" lobbying with the money
they received from nonfederal sources.
That would have been an extension ofthe
current rules, which bar the use of federal
funds for any lobby purpose.
The Reagan proposals were written by
the Heritage Foundation, the think-tank
started by Joseph Coors of Coors Brewery,
and was meant to "de-fund the left." However, the broadly written proposals also
angered the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
as well as several major Defense Department contractors. Among other provisions, they would have had to build a
separate building and hire a separarte
staff for any work they were doing to
affect public opinion.
Several run-throughs were tried by the
Reagan Administration to satisfy its
Defense Department contractors while
still gouging groups like Planned Parenthood off the lists, but Frank used his oversight subcommittee to keep the issue
visible. In late October, the Reagan
administration finally threw in the towel,
accepting a vastly watered-down version
of its first proposals.
In a closely related area, the Administration also had sought to cut off the list of
acceptable charities any group that it
claimed was doing lobbying, again
broadly defined to include such things as
letting the public know of proposed rules
changes affecting programs. Planned
Parenthood, which has faced the strongest hostility of any group during this
AdminiaStration, was once again the
The rules change was particularly objectionable in the eyes of charities, because
the issue was not federal tax dollars, but
merely whether federal employees would
be allowed to donate to such groups during
the annual Combined Federal Campaign,
which is the equivalent ofthe United Way
for the millions of federal workers.
Lower federal court rulings prevented
the Reagan Administration from striking
Planned Parenthood and similar groups.
and Frank's subcommittee once again
kept a close watch on the situation. Frank
now says he believes the charities who
would like information on how to be listed
as an eligible group in the Combined Federal Campaigns of the future.
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission officially is dead at the age of 27, a casualty of
the Reagan Administration's proposal to
rid the watchdog group of its watchdogs
and replace them with lapdogs. The issue
was an effort to replace three commissioners with Reagan appointees, following an
earlier sweep through the commission
that included firing the former Eisenhower cabinet officer then serving as the
Civil Rights Commission chairman-
Congressional supporters of the commission, who point to the group's origins
in 1957 as a key impetus for civil rights
protections in the country, now are consid-
Gays Expected to be Active
and Visible in Primaries
By Larry Bush
Democratic presidential hopefuls continue a hectic schedule, .and straw polls in
both Iowa and Florida drew candidates
and gay activists.
In Iowa, 1980 Democratic National Convention delegate Harold Wells helped
launch a statewide effort to bring gays in
for the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner
early in the month, showing that gays will
be active and visible in the first primary.
About 350 attended the Democratic Party
fundraiser, and presidential hopeful Alan
Cranston joined the gay group earlier in
the day to talk over his candidacy.
In Florida, a smaller but equally vocal
group of gay Democratic Party activists
also put in a day's work at the state's convention; most were divided half-and-half
between Cranston and Mondale, with a
smattering favoring former Florida governor Rueben Askew.
Of particular note at the convention was
the human rights statement, which did
not echo national Democratic Party
standards and instead left out support for
civil rights for gays.
Fred Butler, a past Key West Business
Guild president and treasurer of the Monroe County Democratic Committee, rose to
a point of order on the issue, but was ruled
out of order. When the proposal passed, a
vocal outpouring of "nays" were heard.
according to Dade County Demoratic committee member Jack Campbell, a leading
Meanwhile, South Carolina senator
Ernest Hollings has added his name to the
list of cosponsors of the federal gay civil
rights bill. The step, which was unexpected only because Hollings had earlier
indicated his support of the measure but
not a willingness to cosponsor, came after
Hollings told the National Organization
for Women convention meeting in
Washington, D.C. that he was a cosponsor. NOW lesbian rights project director
Chris Riddiough and Gay Rights
National Lobby field associates director
Tanyan Corman talked to Hollings afterwards, told him he was not a cosponsor,
and got him to move.
Black civil rights leader Jesse Jackson,
declaring for the presidency on Nov. 3,
was the only Democratic hopeful to date to
specifically mention gays among his coalition and support for civil rights that
include gay people among his objectives.
Among those invited to attend Jackson's
announcement in Washington, D.C. was
National Coalition of Black Gays director
Gil Gerald and National Gay Task Force
Washington representative Jeff Levi.
ering measures that would take the commission away from the President entirely
and make it a congressional agency. Currently the commission is charged with
answering to both congress and the President, with the president appointing commissioners and congress giving approval.
Civil rights protections for gays have
not been part of the commission's mandate since a 1977 ruling that the commission can not go beyond the charter
provided by the 1964 civil rights act, as
amended. Since the act has never been
amended to include gays, the commission
took a hands-off policy.
One possible consideration for a
however, might be whether language
would be added expanding the charter
beyond the civil rights act itself to examine discrimination wherever it occurs.
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