“Leading gay rights organizations, with the pointed exception of the Human Rights Campaign [HRC], withdrew their support Monday from a landmark gay civil rights bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., pulled transgender people from the legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.
The intense backlash by the gay community surprised House Democratic leaders, forcing them to postpone what had been intended as a big House vote this week to include gays and lesbians in the nation’s job discrimination laws for the first time in American history.
The debate playing out between gay rights activists and two of their biggest supporters in Congress raises a classic political question: Are activists better off compromising and accepting progress or continuing to fight for everything they want?
Gay rights groups have been waiting for a decade for the bill to pass, and many say a few more months to try to build support for including gender identity would be worth the wait. They say transgender people will have little chance of winning protection from discrimination if they aren’t included in this bill.
Pelosi and Frank, however, fear the inclusion of gender identity will kill the overall bill – again denying gays and lesbians protection against job discrimination.
Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued conflicting statements Monday in reaction to the turmoil. The first declared her personal support for including transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act but asserted she would stick by her decision to drop them from the bill to give it a greater chance of passage.
About three hours later, the speaker issued a new statement saying, “After discussions with congressional leaders and organizations supporting passage” of the bill, committee and floor votes on the bill had been postponed to “allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.””
Hil’s post is well worth reading in its entirety as an introductory text for those who aren’t already familiar with trans issues (feel free to suggest in comments more/better examples of ‘trans 101’ posts and I’ll update accordingly). Also, Marti Abernathey and Vanessa Foster Edwards of TransAdvocate (here, here, here, here and here), along with the folks @ Pam’s House Blend, have been all over the bowdlerized ENDA the past several days. I suggest you go check out the aforementioned sources for the full 411. I also owe and offer my American transgendered brothers and sisters an unequivocal apology for not shining the solidarity spotlight on this much sooner, and brighter, than this.
And to those who would contend that a small victory is still better than total defeat, please consider: it’s a lot easier for lesbians/gays to ‘pass’ than transpeople. With that in mind, which group is most at risk of facing discrimination in the work place, especially if someone is in the process of transitioning or has already transitioned during their tenure of employment? By removing transpeople from the proposed legislation, the Dems have given the shaft to the ones most in need of its protection.
Sorry, Barn and Nance – “wait your turn” is not the answer. The Dem leadership (and the HRC) have proposed that transgendered people be tossed under the rainbow bus for the ‘greater good’; what incentive is there to include transpeople in any future legislation if the Dems–and the greater LGBT community in the U.S.–allow the bowdlerized ENDA to pass? What right do you have to ask the trans community to once again commit seppuko?
The rationalizations remind me of SSM vs. ‘civil unions’. Sure, the latter option may be more palatable for general (read: breeder) consumption in the US. But compromise is essentially giving up the fight for full equality for all members of the LGBT community–permanently.
‘Half a loaf is better than none’? My ass. That don’t mean sh*t to those still hungry and who will remain starving in perpetuity, especially when they’re the ones at the table who are most in need of nourishment.
Let me repeat Hil’s request:
If you think that people should not be fired because they seek gender reassignment surgery, or have some other sort of gender misalignment — if the very idea of choosing one of the toughest parts of a person’s already tough life to take away his or her livelihood for no good reason makes you as mad as it makes me — then now would be a good time to write your Representative and ask him or her to support the extension of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to transgendered people.
Edward_Winkleman’s eloquent dissent:
As a gay man, I don’t mind saying, I have no interest at all in becoming a “first-class citizen” if it comes at the expense of someone else’s status. I’ll happily take my chances with the current law before I’ll passively support the hideous assertion that gays and lesbians are kind of ok now, but transgendered Americans are still very much not ok. That folks can’t see why that’s so offensive to many gay folks suggests to my mind they don’t see why the current lack of protection is offensive to us either. It’s not about us. It’s about what’s right.
What this boils down to, quite frankly (no pun intended), is that I trust the motives of the transgendered community in this battle much, much, much more than I trust the motives of those among general public who are coming around and now ready to condescend to suggest I might be worthy of some of the same civil liberties they take for granted. In other words, if the sh*t hits the fan again, I’d rather stay aligned with the folks who’ve shown me constant, genuine support, regardless of how small a minority they may be, than be worried my new allies are still harboring bigotry and might turn against me again.
and offer this call to action from Rebecca Juro (hyperlinks and emphasis mine):
It’s time to get pissed off again and start calling out people and organizations out when they deserve it. It’s time finish the job that we started in 2004 and knock HRC from its undeserved perch as the leading LGBT civil rights organization and replace them with an organization which understands that civil rights are for everyone, even when they interfere with the interests of rich white gay guys. NGLTF isn’t perfect, but they’re far closer to that ideal than HRC has ever come or ever will. The fact that even the Empire State Pride Agenda has signed onto this letter as HRC and LCCR remain silent speaks volumes, both about how far some in this movement have come in being willing to support and work for truly inclusive civil rights laws, and how for others the only thing that’s really changed in any substantive ways is the rhetoric.
It’s time to take our movement back, gang…let’s go out there and make it happen. No delays, no excuses. The time to have an impact, for all of us, is right now. If we fail in this we only have ourselves to blame.
One, two, three, four, one, two, three…DON’T support the HRC!
Also, please sign the National Stonewall Democrats web petition:
[Update: Waymon Hudson @ The Bilerico Project on Lambda Legal’s analysis of the so-called SPLENDA bill:
“Leaving out protections for transgender people is unacceptable, and passing a bill riddled with loopholes will make it harder to achieve equality on the job. You can’t be fired for being a lesbian or a gay man, but you can be fired if your boss thinks you fit their stereotype of one.“
After the fold, statements from TLC, NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), along with the text of the original letter to Congress rejecting the trans-free ENDA.
Transgender Law Center Opposes Division of ENDA
Sept 28, 2007 — Despite opposition from many national LGBT organizations, Congressman Barney Frank has moved to separate the language of the Employment Non-Discrimination ACT (ENDA) into two bills – one limited to sexual orientation and the other to gender identity.
“This is a divide that we cannot afford,” said Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. “LGBT organizations and allies have been working for years to pass a bill that protects gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees alike. “I fear that this move by the Congressional leadership will create unnecessary divisiveness among our communities.”
The decision to split ENDA was made right after Congress passed a historic transgender-inclusive Hate Crimes bill by a large margin of 60-39. “It is almost inconceivable that the House of Representatives would treat employment discrimination based on sexual orientation different from gender identity,” said Cecilia Chung, TLC Deputy Director. Chung cited the recent passage of the Matthew Shepherd Act, “The recent Federal Hate Crimes bill passage is owed largely to grassroots transgender activists throughout the country. Increasingly, these activists are no longer fighting alone — coalitions are being built with dedicated lesbian, gay and bisexual activists.” TLC will join the many national organization opposing the ENDA split and urge the lawmakers in D.C to reconsider and introduce an all inclusive bill that is non-divisive.
The Transgender Law Center is heartened by the unequivocal support from our national allies. “We are now at a point in our national LGBT movement where we are no longer fighting each other for inclusion,” said Davis, “We are fighting together for equal rights for all of us—lesbian, gay, bisexual AND transgender.”
The two new bills will go to committee for consideration as early as next Tuesday.
NCTE STATEMENT ON THE EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT
(September 28, 2007) — Yesterday our Congressional allies apparently abandoned the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (H.R. 2015), the centerpiece of the LGBT legislative agenda, and introduced two new pieces of legislation which separate the protected classes of gender identity and sexual orientation. NCTE firmly rejects this strategy and joins most other national and many state LGBT organizations in actively opposing these two new bills.
Until last week, the majority of our congressional allies and organizational partners were confident that our years of diligent work were ready to bear fruit. We believe that the original version ENDA, which was fully inclusive of both gender identity and sexual orientation, was prematurely abandoned and should still be called to a vote.
NCTE thanks our friends in Congress for the important work that has already been done, but calls on them to return to their efforts to pass this historic piece of legislation.
It is disheartening to see that a bill, drafted over several years through a collaborative effort of LGBT advocates and allies, would be rejected without a vote and without the counsel or assent of a single one of these organizations.
There has been increasing support over the last decade to include transgender people in all local, state and federal legislation designed to end the injustice and inequality which has been perpetrated against LGBT Americans for generations. In fact there are currently 13 states, the DC and over 100 municipalities which already have passed similar anti discrimination laws to protect people on the basis of both gender identity and sexual orientation.
It is unacceptable at this juncture in the national conversation about the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans that transgender people should be excluded from equal protections under the law.
We call on all members of Congress to remember the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all people are created equally and deserve the assurance of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Task Force, Inc., responds to decision to postpone hearing on substitute ENDA aimed at stripping transgender protections
Roberta Sklar, Communications Director
“In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way and said once and for all that we will leave no part of it behind.”
— Matt Foreman, Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 — Scheduled House committee action on a version of employment nondiscrimination legislation without protections for transgender people has been postponed. A statement from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Miller, Reps. Frank and Baldwin said this would “allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with Members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.”
Statement by Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc.
“The announced postponement of the scheduled House mark-up on the transgender-stripped Employment Non-Discrimination Act takes us in a positive direction. In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way and said once and for all that we will leave no part of it behind. We appreciate that a decision has been made to slow down this process, and we look forward to working with Congress over the upcoming weeks to educate members as to why this substitute bill strategy is seriously flawed, convince them to abandon this strategy, and instead advance a fully inclusive ENDA later this month.
“Our movement resolves to go forward together in our quest for equality under the law and we can be proud of our accomplishment to stop — for now — action on an unsatisfactory bill. Over 100 national and state organizations and thousands of community members at the grassroots level have already come together to let Congress know they oppose the sexual-orientation-only substitute bill.
“Our community must continue to weigh in with every member of Congress, letting them know of our insistence that a fully inclusive ENDA must pass the House this year. This effort is all the more important with the leadership’s statement that leaves open which version of ENDA will advance. Just as we have for the last few days, we must signal loud and clear to every member of Congress: We are one community and we demand protections for all of us. Nothing else will suffice.”
ENDA October 1 Letter
United opposition to sexual-orientation-only nondiscrimination legislation
October 1, 2007
Dear Madam Speaker and Representatives:
The undersigned represent the vast and celebrated diversity of the LGBT community in this country. Some of us are national leaders of organizations with tens of thousands of members and constituents, some of us run the only local organization in our state. But we are united in a common cause: We ask you to keep working with us on an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that protects everyone in our community, and to oppose any substitute legislation that leaves some of us behind.
We ask and hope that in this moment of truth, you will stand for the courage real leadership sometimes demands. You each command enormous respect from all of us and we do appreciate the difficulty of balancing a variety of competing demands. But the correct course in this case and on this legislation is strikingly clear. We oppose legislation that leaves part of our community without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided.
You told us you supported a fully inclusive ENDA and would bring it up for a vote this year. We expect that you will honor that commitment and we look forward to working together to pass a bill that we can all be proud to support.
National Association of LGBT Community Centers
National Black Justice Coalition
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
National Coalition for LGBT Health
National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc.
National Stonewall Democrats
National Transgender Advocacy Coalition
National Youth Advocacy Coalition
ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
American Institute of Bisexuality
Bi Mental Health Professionals Association
Bisexual Resource Center
Bi Writers Association
COLAGE (Children of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere)
Equality Project Investor Advocates
Faith In America
Family Pride Coalition
Freedom to Marry
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders
GLSEN – the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
The Gender Public Gender Public Advocacy Coalition (GenderPAC)
International Foundation for Gender Education
International Federation of Black Prides
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch
Matthew Shepard Foundation
Metropolitan Community Churches
Mautner Project: the National Lesbian Health Organization
New Ways Ministry
Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
Pride At Work, AFL-CIO
Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodists)
Transgender American Veterans Association
Transgender Law and Policy Institute
Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund
TransYouth Family Advocates
Unid@s, the National Latin@ LGBT Human Rights Organization
State Organizations (grouped by state, alphabetically)
Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center
Transgender Law Center (California)
Equal Rights Colorado
Love Makes A Family (Connecticut)
Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
MEGA Family Project (Georgia)
Idaho Equality Committee of Your Family Friends and Neighbors
Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance
Kentucky Fairness Alliance
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
Triangle Foundation (Michigan)
Montana Human Rights Network
Citizens For Equal Protection (Nebraska)
Garden State Equality (New Jersey)
New Jersey Lesbian & Gay Coalition
Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey
New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition
Concord Outright (New Hampshire)
Seacoast Outright (New Hampshire)
Equality New Mexico
Empire State Pride Agenda (New York)
New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA)
Equality North Carolina
EqualityToledo Community Action
Kaleidoscope Youth Center (Columbus, OH)
Basic Rights Oregon
Equality Advocates Pennsylvania
PA Diversity Network
Northeastern PA Rainbow Alliance
Marriage Equality Rhode Island
South Carolina Equality Coalition
Alliance For Full Acceptance – South Carolina
SC Gay & Lesbian Pride Movement
Trans Carolina (South and North Carolina)
Equality South Dakota
Tennessee Equality Project
Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition
R.U.1.2? Community Center (Vermont)
Equal Rights Washington
Gay City Health Project
Center Advocates (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
To join this list, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
[slightly edited for clarity/to fix formating errors and remove inadvertent hotlinks – brain=immersed in amber atm]