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    October 02, 2007

    ENDA, gay rights get trans-jacked

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank have agreed to delay until later this month consideration of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act after some 90 GLBT groups joined in a letter of opposition to Barney's decision to strip trans protections from the bill. Frank, the leading gay Democrat, made the move after a private headcount showed there was not enough support in the House to pass a trans-inclusive version of ENDA.

    At this point, the Pelosi-Frank decision is a delay, not a reversal, but if the delay sticks and the trans-inclusive version fails, it would be a remarkable betrayal of gays across the U.S., who have been waiting for more than 30 years to pass a basic civil rights bill through Congress. 

    ENDA enjoys its best chance ever of passage today, since gay-friendly Democrats control the House for the first time since 1994, and the Senate for the first time since 2002. The bipartisan support has been there even during periods of GOP control, but the Republican leadership blocked ENDA from full passage. Now, finally, when the political stars are aligned, and even President Bush hasn't outright threatened a veto, gay movement "leaders" have saddled ENDA with transgender protections that don't yet have sufficient political support.

    The demand for "additional time" to lobby for a trans-inclusive ENDA, led by Matt Foreman at the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, is incredibly disingenuous. For one thing, the Task Force and the 89 other groups demanding a trans-or-bust ENDA have had years to lobby for this bill. Even if trans rights supporters are able to salvage enough votes for House passage, which is very doubtful, they have zero chance of getting their version of the bill through the closely divided Senate, much less by the super-majority required to overcome a Republican filibuster. 

    The few extra weeks pleaded for by Foreman are unlikely to accomplish anything but to kill momentum for a gay-specific ENDA. And that, my friends, is the real goal of the Task Force here. The rest of us will suffer through with no workplace protection because Foreman is still working through his liberal guilt for having successfully pushed through civil rights protections for New York gays while heading up the Empire State Pride Agenda, even though it took jettisoning transgender protections to get the job done.

    His overwrought press release prose -- "In this defining and morally transformative moment, our community has come together in an unprecedented way" -- signal his true position, which is to oppose protections based on sexual orientation not just for a few additional weeks, but forever, until there's enough political support in Congress and the White House to pass transgender protections as well. Let there be no doubt on this point; the letter signed by Foreman and leaders of 89 other GLBT groups is headlined, "United opposition to sexual-orientation-only employment nondiscrimination legislation."

    The Human Rights Campaign, on the other hand, has kept its head down, ceding leadership to Foreman and the Task Force, until HRC could see which way the wind was blowing. Despite all the action last week on ENDA, HRC waited until late Friday to issue a statement that accepted the Frank-Pelosi decision, even while trying to claim opposition to it. Then on Oct. 1, when HRC saw itself even more isolated among GLBT groups, the nation's largest GLBT groups signed its own letter, joined by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, that expressed opposition to "the strategy and process" followed by Pelosi and Frank. Funny, that's not what HRC said three days earlier.

    The position advocated by all of these groups makes as little logical sense as it does political. The 90 groups claim in their letter, in bold print no less, that, "We oppose legislation that leaves part of our community without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided."

    What a disappointing break with reason, politics and history. ENDA was never meant as a comprehensive civil rights bill. It doesn't protect those gays or transgender people who are fine with their jobs but face discrimination in other areas, whether being kicked out of their homes or the military, or denied public accommodations, or refused legal recognition of their relationships.

    Since 1994, the whole point of ENDA was to zero in on the most narrowly achievable, incremental progress. Protection based on sexual orientation in the workplace was correctly viewed as having the greatest political support. Now those who run our GLBT rights organizations -- perhaps to perpetuate the need for their own organizations -- have abandoned that strategy for one that makes absolutely no sense: Let's pass the most politically palatable form of protection (in the workplace) but saddle it with the least politically palatable category (gender identity).

    Make no mistake about the political effect of the "trans-jacking" of not just ENDA, but the whole movement. ENDA and hate crimes have always been at the top of the long and growing list of gay rights bills in Congress.  So long as energy is spent on a trans-inclusive ENDA, then Congress has all the cover it needs to perpetually postpone more politically sensitive votes on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" or federal recognition of same-sex couples.

    Since the vast majority of us enter into relationships that would benefit from legal recognition, progress on that front would affect almost every single gay or bisexual person. But for now we must wait even longer because our "leaders" have decided that protecting transsexuals from workplace discrimination is more important than winning basic legal recognition for our relationships.

    So now the streamlined bill that was given the top spot of the gay rights agenda is holding everything else back. At least movement veterans like Foreman have succeeded in securing their own workplace protection, since they've managed to postpone indefinitely the success of the gay rights movement.

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    1. Pragmatism, principle, and law in ENDA: from The Volokh Conspiracy on Oct 6, 2007 3:02:24 PM

      There is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in private employment, though such protection was first introduced by Bella Abzug in 1974. Courts have consistently read Title VII’s ban on sex disc... [Read More]

    Comments

    1. Tim C on Oct 2, 2007 12:52:11 PM:

      A sad state of affairs.

    1. Rebecca Juro on Oct 2, 2007 1:49:39 PM:

      Chris,

      Time for a new catch phrase...you've worn this one out.

      The fact is, Frank, Pelosi, and HRC knew they weren't representing the will of the community (last I checked, 85% of the community in support of trans-inclusion, according to HRC's own polling). They were trying to make sure they had something to laud at the HRC dinner where Pelosi will be honored.

      In 2004, we complained and almost no one cared. This time, we complained and almost everyone cared and rallied behind us. That's what four years of hard work has accomplished...you know, that education you keep preaching we need to do?

      Don't you see, Chris? We've done the work, we continue to do the work, and we've got a far more united community behind us than we used to as a result. It's you and others like you who are standing still.

    1. Ingrid on Oct 2, 2007 2:04:18 PM:

      Well I was never polled and am not part of that 85%. As Andrew would say, money quote: "but saddle it with the least politically palatable category (gender identity)." This one is going to come back to bite us big time.

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 2, 2007 2:09:07 PM:

      Rebecca, do you know any tone of response other than condescension, or do you actually think that a campy attitude can substitute for saying something substantive?

      Your cite to the HRC poll is irrelevant. Like 85 of "the community," I support transgender rights as well. The question is whether gay Americans would be OK with postponing their own civil rights until Congress is ready to protect transsexuals and cross-dressers and transvestites as well.

      You claim to have "done the work" but all you've succeeded in doing is trans-jacking the gay rights movement by convincing its white liberal leaders to go with a trans-or-bust strategy. I have never accused you of failing to leverage your movement at the expense of ours. I argued that you did so before doing the REALLY hard work, which is convincing those NOT part of the "GLBT community" of the need for transgender rights.

    1. adamblast on Oct 2, 2007 2:19:49 PM:

      Evidentally the word "trans-jacked" is unacceptable elsewhere. I just got my comments removed at JoeMyGod. Sigh.

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 2, 2007 2:32:14 PM:

      Ahh yes, adamblast -- that famous tolerance for every conceivable category but ideas. I know it all too well.

    1. Darlie on Oct 2, 2007 3:55:32 PM:

      Look , if it is compromise that is all that matters I can get the next bill through in a blink, unanimously passed.

      Just include a clause that the bill only protects gays who don't look or sound gay or march in gay parades. That is what America hates, you gays looking and sounding like , well gays. I've heard it over and over again from straights.

      " I don't have anything against gays, I just hate when they push their sexuality in my face".

      Chris, you agree don't you ? I mean that bill would go through for sure and you would have "something". It's not just transsexuals they consider "unpalatable". It's gay drag queens, pride marches , lisping , limp wrists and all the other stereotypes the gay community is known for. If you think that compromise is all that is holding this bill back then why not take that steps to assure passage.

      You could always comeback for the effeminate gays later.

    1. Lucrece on Oct 2, 2007 4:44:44 PM:

      Pam released a revision by LL on the new version, and it may not be just about the T aspect that we should worry about in the new bill.

      Seeing how Title VII hasn't helped much in protecting feminine men and butch women, I'm still icky about leaving gender identity out. What if someone fired me, and even though the bill would protect me on the grounds of sexual orientation, my employer could exploit the gender identity loophole because my hair is feminine-long? I can't help but be ambivalent about this issue, even though I desire legal protection right now...

    1. Darlie on Oct 2, 2007 4:49:28 PM:

      "You think that we aren't tied to you but I have been called "homo" a lot. Constantly because I am out. Gwen Araujo was being beaten to death by a homphobe yelling "I am not gay, I am not gay!".

      Oh , in court , her murderers used the "Gay Panic Defense". You tell me, are we tied ?"

    1. Joe.My.God. on Oct 2, 2007 5:01:20 PM:

      I have not removed a single comment regarding ENDA. In fact, I rarely even delete the hate speech of Xtian trolls. If Adamblast's comment disappeared, it may be the fault of Haloscan, which has been terribly weird for several days.

    1. Double T on Oct 2, 2007 5:03:51 PM:

      Chris, I find it hard to believe you are the champion of Trans Rights.

      What wrong with an Up or Down Vote. If it gets Voted Down, we move forward.

      I read your little "preachy" speech about doing the right thing at Vanderbilt. What about doing the right thing now. Sounds like your in a hurry for a quick fix.

    1. adamblast on Oct 2, 2007 5:14:59 PM:

      Thanks Joe, and I apologize for the assumption.

    1. Joe.My.God. on Oct 2, 2007 5:24:42 PM:

      Just checked, Adamblast.

      Your comment of 1:56pm today on my most recent ENDA post is still there. If you made another comment that is missing, that would be due to the Haloscan issue mentioned above.

      Even thought my blog sometimes gets thousands of comments a week, I do try to read them all. Only threats of physical violence or comments revealing
      irrelevant personal information about post subjects are removed. On rare occasions, I will add the IP addresses of abusive commenters, to dissuade them from returning to JMG.

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 2, 2007 8:10:52 PM:

      Joe.My.God, glad to hear that. I follow a similar policy, pretty much.

      Double T, in theory I have nothing against an up-or-down vote, although it seems a waste of time if trans rights supporters need 70-80 additional votes, which is what I've heard.

      The other problem with an up-or-down vote is that the gay rights movement only gets a certain amount of attention from Congress and we've already waited until October for ENDA to come up for consideration. Needless dilly-dallying on ENDA just makes less likely a vote on Don't Ask, Don't Tell or DP benefits for federal employees or (imagine!) immigration rights for gay binational couples.

    1. Kelly on Oct 2, 2007 9:23:06 PM:

      I sure am glad we don't have people like you working in the GLBT community here in Louisville. If we did, I wouldn't have the protections I have now. You see, our local GLBT Advocacy Group, Louisville Fairness, believes in a policy of all or none. That's why we have one of the very best anti-discrimination laws in the country, one that covers employment, housing and public accommodations.

      The idea of proposing a sexual orientation only policy was never even discussed. Why? Because including gender identity was the right thing to do and we all believe that all of us are deserving of the same rights. It's been nearly a decade since that law was passed and we are a better city because of it.

      As for your arguments, they are tragically flawed, though I know you won't agree. You are under some kind of illusion if you think that by dropping the gender identity clause that you will suddenly get widespread bi-partisan support. The right wing hates you as much as they hate me and if you think Bush wouldn't veto a sexual orientation only ENDA, you are so far removed from reality that there is no point in arguing with you. He'll have that damn pen ready the second it gets voted on and will hold the biggest Rose Garden Press Conference of his administration.

      As for federal recognition of same-sex couples, well, if you are going to hope for something like that, why not support a trans inclusive ENDA, it has a much better chance of passing right now than recognition of same-sex couples.

      It should happen, I totally agree and would love for it to happen, but federal recognition isn't coming anytime soon. Just look across the country at the states that have banned marriage for same sex couples. Do you honestly think that the Senators and Representatives from those states are going to ignore the masses who voted for those bans? Maybe a few, but certainly not enough to pass it.

      My point is, anyone who thinks that a sexual orientation only bill is going to become law is just simply crazy. It isn't going to happen this year, not as long as we have so many spineless Democrats in Congress, the usual collection of right wing nuts that call themselves Republicans and Bush sitting in the Oval Office.

      So why not wait till 2009 when we will hopefully have a more favorable political environment? The choice is yours I guess, but I don't see how getting a watered down bill passed by a small majority, only to be vetoed is better than working to elect a better congress and president and then bringing a good ENDA to a vote.

    1. totalD on Oct 3, 2007 12:19:37 AM:

      When the next TG gets beaten to death by a bigot screaming
      "Faggot ! Im not gay , I'm not gay" ! Chris Crain will be there to tell them it's ok because TG's aren't gay. They are sooooooo different. Wake up Crain.

    1. Matt on Oct 3, 2007 2:52:56 PM:

      I sure am glad we don't have people like you working in the GLBT community here in Louisville. If we did, I wouldn't have the protections I have now. You see, our local GLBT Advocacy Group, Louisville Fairness, believes in a policy of all or none. That's why we have one of the very best anti-discrimination laws in the country, one that covers employment, housing and public accommodations.

      And I, in turn, am glad that people like you aren't working on GLBT issues in Congress, though it seems that the majority of our gay "leaders" in DC are just as vacuous as you are.

      Your implication is that what works for large American cities will also work for the rest of the country, and that's just so incredibly naive and politically short-sighted. We have to convince the country bit by bit and not try to shove everything down its throat all at once.

      It might make us feel good inside to make grand but ultimately futile gestures, but what does it get us in the end?

    1. Kelly on Oct 3, 2007 9:51:52 PM:

      Matt, what I am trying to say is that if things like this can pass in Louisville or even Lexington, much smaller and certainly more conservative than Louisville, than I think you are short selling a big part of this country. Here in Louisville, it is a microcosm of the country at large.

      We have a fairly large GLBT population and some of the most liberal neighborhoods you will find anywhere in America but you also have parts of town that aren't. It's a good mix of religions, race and economic status. But the vote on the Fairness Ordinance passed the Metro Council overwhelmingly with support from all areas of the county.

      A huge coalition of churches, local businesses, labor unions, elected officials and everyday folks worked for this and all these years later, NOT A SINGLE COUNCIL MEMBER WHO VOTED FOR IT LOST IN THE NEXT ELECTION OR SINCE.

      The same was true in Lexington when they added sexual orientation and gender identity to the anti-discrimination laws. The University of Kentucky and University of Louisville both offer domestic partner benefits and many of the largest employers in both city's do the same.

      I like to think that if these kind of things can happen in Kentucky, it can happen nationwide. I want to believe that we can come together and make this happen for everyone. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know for sure, but I'd rather stand firm in my beliefs and fight for something that is right. I'm certainly not trying to pick a fight here and I just want to try and make another point, that's all.

    1. Ashley Yang on Oct 20, 2008 9:29:36 PM:

      i find it sad how some people have this seperate mentality, us vs them. why can't we think everyone as family. think as if they were my sister, i would help them too

      to put this in perspective. say it was the civil rights movement and blacks were fighting to have jobs rights and not to be fired for being black. what if they excluding the latino community. what if they said we're not fighting for all people to have rights, we're fighting for blacks to have rights. just how divided they would sound. what would happen if MLK spoke of a dream only for black people and not a dream for eveyone. the seperate mentality would not get other people interest and would not go far

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