[JURIST] Assistant US Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez [official profile] said Wednesday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] is committed to fighting discrimination against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation. One tool Perez indicated would be useful in this new endeavor is the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, currently under consideration in the House of Representatives [HR 3017 materials] and the Senate [S 1584 materials; JURIST report]. Perez also referenced a bill [HR 2647 materials] passed [JURIST report] recently by the House that would expand the federal hate crimes definition to include crimes based on sexual orientation. That bill will now go before the Senate. This new commitment [AP report] by the DOJ comes just days after President Barack Obama remarked [JURIST report] during a speech [text] to the Human Rights Campaign that, "[m]y expectation is that when you look back on these years, you will see a time in which we put a stop to discrimination against gays and lesbians - whether in the office or on the battlefield."
While his election was hailed by many as the spark needed to bring about equality based on sexual orientation, to many, Obama's actions have not matched his promises [Houston Chronicle column]. In that same speech, Obama reiterated his campaign promise to end the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [text] policy that prevents homosexuals from serving openly in the armed forces, but the administration has yet to take any action to further that goal. Support has grown for repeal of the policy, particularly in the wake of the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari [JURIST report] on a claim that 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' violates equal protection and substantive due process. In the wake of that denial, the Senate Armed Services Committee declared that it would hold hearings on the issue [JURIST report] this fall.