Gwen Moore updates LGBT community about legislation, voting rights at community meeting

Louis Weisberg

Addressing a town hall meeting at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center this evening, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore updated a crowd of about 100 attendees about pending federal legislation concerning LGBT civil rights.

While acknowledging that the prospects for passage in the near future are dim, Moore outlined 15 proposed laws that would improve the lives of LGBT Americans if enacted. Those include the longstanding Employment Non-Discrimination Act and the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.

Calling marriage equality a “human rights issue, not a religious issue,” Moore told a grateful audience that the federal ban on same-sex marriage amounted to “taxation without representation.” Gay and lesbian couples pay the same taxes as their heterosexual counterparts, she explained, but are denied the 1,138 federal benefits that come with marriage, including the right to share social security benefits with same-sex spouses.

Moore also gave an overview of lesser-known pending measures, including the Student Non-Discrimination Act, which would provide legal redress to youth who are bullied and harassed in schools. She’s an original co-sponsor of that law.

Besides looking at proposed measures, Moore also spoke about the unprecedented legislative victories that have been achieved at the federal level under President Barack Obama, and she warned they will be rolled back if right-wing candidates prevail in next month’s elections.

“I’m in this fight as a gay ally as you continue to make a difference,” Moore said. “As a child of the ’60s, it’s wonderful to be a part of a movement that dignifies everyone as you are.”

Moore’s presentation provided a backdrop for LGBT community leaders to educate listeners about new voting laws and to encourage them to become poll watchers and volunteers.

“It’s no longer enough just to vote,” said Neil Albrecht, the executive director of Milwaukee’s Election Commission and a former director of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center.

Albrecht said it would require hundreds of volunteers to counter all the ballot challenges expected from Republicans, who have rolled out a large-scale effort dubbed “block the vote” by Democrats/

Albrecht reminded the audience that Oct. 17 is the deadline for open registration, which requires less documentation and challenge than registering to vote after that date.

A national voter hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683) has been established for citizens who experience problems voting. For more information, go to www.866ourvote.org.