Moving Forward on an Inclusive ENDA

September 30, 2007 at 9:58 am 4 comments

As the drama around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to unfold, there are two hard facts that we must face head on. One, we are victims of House politics in which the House leadership decided to remove gender identity from the bill and two, we led ourselves into believing that adding gender identity to ENDA would not be that big of a pill for members of Congress to swallow.

It is clear as the nose on Barbara Streisand’s gorgeous face that the House leadership including Nancy Pelosi and George Miller made the decision to remove gender identity from ENDA because they believe that the votes are not there for an inclusive bill and they are feeling tremendous pressure to get something, anything passed. Its also clear that they would not have done this without the consent of congressional go-to-gay Barney Frank. Frank was long opposed to adding gender identity to ENDA and the hate crimes bill. He was finally convinced to do so after much effort by LGBT groups including the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality and ACLU.

Pelosi is facing a deadline in that she is scheduled to be a featured speaker at the HRC National Dinner on October 6 and is loathe to show up without gift in hand. That’s a key reason that gender identity was removed and that there is a sudden push for markup of the bill this week.

We also convinced ourselves that the addition of gender identity would not cause much of a ripple on Capitol Hill and that we would not lose congressional support. Some activists underestimated the work that would have to be done to educate members of Congress and more importantly the level of work that would be needed to not only build support for an inclusive ENDA, but also to keep that support.

The introduction of an inclusive ENDA occurred for the first time this year while an LGB ENDA had been in play in one form or another for three decades. To expect that a bill with such a major addition as gender identity would not face challenges and require lots of hard work to is/was not realistic. In passing ENDA and other legislation needed to ensure our full equality its critical that we see things as they are and not as we wish them to be.

We should have been more aggressive in mounting a serious multi-faceted campaign to shore up support for an inclusive ENDA. That is something that I have written about a number of times including here and here. We spend too much time focused on mindless distractions like Chris Crocker and wondering who’s gay and who’s not to do the grinding and unglamorous work building grassroots support for federal legislation.

Now is not the time to cave in to political pressures or the need to get things done. As reported by Pam Spaulding, former HRC president Elizabeth Birch has suggested “rather than pushing ENDA off the cliff in this heated moment, to have a cooling off period, not move on it and work to gain solid support from these waffling Dems rather than create a fractured mess to clean up.” I agree wholeheartedly.

Now is not the time to turn our energies and anger on one another its time to build the support in Congress for what we all want: an ENDA that protects all members of the LGBT community.

As Florida activist Nadine Smith says in a post called A Moment of Truth,

Like every minority group that has fought for basic rights, we will never win by the votes of our community alone. What we do have is the moral authority to call out to America to live up its ideals. We have the ability to call on our leaders and our fellow citizens to treat everyone equally under the law, to reject bigotry, prejudice and the discrimination and violence they breed.

To cut out, to throw out protection regardless of gender identity/expression is to cede that moral authority. It is to confirm for our political enemies that a dividing line within the human family is acceptable–the haggling about who is worthy and who is not is all that remains.This is not the time to do the bigots’ work for them. To make excuses. To call fear pragmatism.

Here is what we need:

Every organization and every individual who shares a commitment to equality to speak in a single voice with the clarity of disability activist Bob Williams: We are in this together. We will leave no one behind.


Entry filed under: Advocacy, Congress, LGBT, Politics.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Allen  |  September 30, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Bravo.This is really is our Moment of Truth.
    Thanks for saying out loud words that have been long overdue.
    When we say G-L-B-T we do mean everyone.

    Leave no one behind!!!!

  • 2. Lena Dahlstrom  |  October 1, 2007 at 2:54 am

    Bravo! To you and to Nadine Smith.

    Bush will veto ENDA with or without trans protection, and there’s not enough votes for an override. So it’s always been a symbolic vote.
    Not to say symbolism isn’t important — being willing to toss aside the most vulnerable members of the LBGT communities without even an attempt to line up more support sure sends a signal to the pro-bigotry side: we’re willing to cave even before things get serious. 

    Rather than cutting loose trans people without warning, Frank and company could have said, “hey folks we need more votes, go lobby your representatives.”

    This isn’t “half a loaf is better than none,” this is “You can starve as long as I get mine.” 
    As far as waiting politely…

    Did gays and lesbians “wait their turn” when they pushed for inclusion in civil rights legislation in the ’70s, when they were told doing so might harm efforts by racial minorities?

    Did they “wait their turn” when they demanded funding for HIV/AIDS research and finding a cure for it get higher priority in the ’80s, when established groups felt that doing so would take badly-needed money away from other fatal diseases?

    Did they “wait their turn” when they demanded that their rights be acknowledged and respected in the ’90s?

    Did they “wait their turn” in 2003 when they pushed for marriage equality in the face of warnings that it could have a disastrous impact before a critical presidential election?

    And color me cynical, but “we’ll come back for you later” hasn’t had a particularly good track record.

    In New York and Maryland, trans people helped pass LBG anti-discrimination laws six years after being told to wait. Six years later they’re still waiting — and left to fend for themselves while LGB organizations focus on marriage equality.

    In Barney Frank’s home state, LGB anti-discrimination laws were passed 17 years ago. Trans people are still waiting.

    In Michigan, trans protections were dropped in order to pass LGB anti-discrimination laws passed 18 years ago. Trans people are still waiting.

    Trans people have been in this fight a long time — if you haven’t heard about it, it’s because but it took 10 years before the LGB organizations would agree to let us take part in ENDA.

    BTW, think about this: omitting gender identity leaves a huge loophole to be exploited by careful bigots, e.g. “We didn’t fire you because you’re gay/lesbian, we fired you because you’re nelly/butch.” 

    Where I do disagree is I think we also need devote time and energy towards letting HRC know that they can’t promise for three years to support trans people — which HRC President reiterated two weeks ago at a major trans conference — and then stand by silently when trans people are thrown into the volcano.

    As Martin Luther King Jr. said, in the long run it would be the arguments of our enemies, but rather the silence of our friends, that will be remembered. 

  • 3. Bloggernista  |  October 1, 2007 at 7:34 am

    We have to find the votes to make a trans inclusive bill possible.

    I don’t believe that HRC is standing silently by while this is happening. HRC staff, some of whom are friends of mine, have been pushing the Dem leadership to keep the language of ENDA trans inclusive.

    They may not have jumped at signing letters saying trans or nothing, but that has never been the way that HRC has operated. Letters are easy. Persuading members of Congress is the hard part and that is the challenge that HRC has taken up.

  • 4. Mad Professah  |  October 1, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    I am one of the people who thinks that Barney Frank should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to bring forward a GLB-only ENDA but it should not be brought up without ALSO a vote on a GLBT-inclusive ENDA.

    I don’t really understand why it is so difficult to have a vote on both the blls. It should also be noted that ALL of the Democratic Presidential candidates are in favor of a trans-inclusive ENDA, so if they were to become President and a trans-inclusive bill were to pass, it could actually be passed into law. I predict now that once this bill will actually be likely to becvome a reality the politics will get even more vicious, not less, although right now that is hard to imagine.

    I would also like to point out that the notion of civil rights laws actually including gender identity is something which is something VERY recent (in the last 5-10 years or so) and that the thought that this would be easy to do with the first Democratic majority congress in 10 years was wishful thinking at best.

    I would say I completely support the notion of a federal civil rights bill inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation, in fact I think we should have a REAL civil rights bill that includes public accomodations, housing, employment and education as covered areas as well.


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