“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.“