We interrupt today's Budget Theatre to bring you a message: While the press and dithers and flurries over stupid gang proposals that haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of becoming law, more quiet and equally significant things are happening, too.
Like, for example, President Obama's endorsement of a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.
A day before the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to hold hearing on the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration has endorsed Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) legislation to repeal it. Responding to a question from Metro Weekly’s Chris Geidner, White House Press Briefing, Jay Carney said Obama was “proud to support the Respect for Marriage Act” to “take DOMA off the books once and for all.” “This legislation would uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples,” he added.
What’s more, it’s a heartening piece that fits into a larger mosaic. After two-and-a-half years, President Obama has successfully repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law; expanded federal benefits for the same-sex partners of executive-branch employees; signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law; cleared the way for hospital-visitation rights for same-sex couples; lifted the travel/immigration ban on those with HIV/AIDS; ordered the Federal Housing Authority to no longer consider the sexual orientation of applicants on loans; expanded the Census to include the number of people who report being in a same-sex relationship; and hired more openly gay officials than any administration in history.
Along those lines, it went virtually unnoticed yesterday that the Senate confirmed an openly gay judge for district court for the first time in history.
Then there's this quiet little release about birth control pills and health insurance. This is a particularly sensitive issue for me, because it aggravates me that Viagra is covered and birth control pills aren't. Add to that the Republican War on Women and their reproductive systems, and it adds up to a victory to see this:
Virtually all health insurance plans could soon be required to offer female patients free coverage of prescription birth control, breast-pump rentals, counseling for domestic violence, and annual wellness exams and HIV tests as a result of recommendations released Tuesday by an independent advisory panel of health experts.
The health-care law adopted last year directed the Obama administration to draw up a list of preventive services for women that all new health plans must cover without deductibles or co-payments. While the guidelines suggested Tuesday by a committee of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine are not binding, the panel conducted its year-long review at the request of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
In a statement, Sebelius praised the committee’s work as “historic” and “based on science and existing literature.”
“We are reviewing the report closely and will release the department’s recommendations . . . very soon,” she added.
It may not be some spectacular Congressional win, but wait for that. That win will ride forward in the form of a clean debt ceiling raise, dragging Eric Cantor, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell in the dust behind it. In the meantime, other steps in the right direction, even if they don't make the front page.