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  • « Happy blog birthday to me | Main | Transg-ENDA and passing privilege »

    October 08, 2007

    Gay papers weigh in on ENDA

    Posted by: Chris

    Gay newspaper editorials this past week reflect the divide among GLBs generally on whether to adopt a "trans or bust" strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The vigorous debate on LGBT editorial pages further puts the lie to Matt Foreman's claims of "unity" on the subject, and also offers a convenient way to drill down to the core issues here.

    Bayareareporter The Bay Area Reporter published a harshly worded editorial taking to task "two stalwarts of our community" -- Barney Frank and the Human Rights campaign -- for their ENDA positions. The editorial chastised HRC for its "inexplicable and inexcusable" silence during much of the debate over ENDA, which HRC has defended as necessary to "staying in the game" with Barney Frank and other Congressional leaders. (As if Barney Frank would refuse HRC's phone calls if they publicly opposed him.)

    HRC has managed to alienate many on both sides of the ENDA issue, while no doubt remaining popular with those who want to ride the fence on ENDA until they can see how it all comes out in the end. After "heartbreaking" and "wrenching" internal debate -- one can imagine the hand-wringing -- Joe Solmonese has described HRC's position as "unequivocally" in support of trans-inclusive ENDA and opposed to gay-specific ENDA. 

    That said, Solmonese does equivocate on what HRC do if Barney and Nancy Pelosi go forward with a gay-specific version. When push comes to shove, HRC will apparently abandon its "unequivocal" position and will not actively oppose a gay-specific version.

    The BAR editorial closes by noting:

    What's amazing to us is that Frank and HRC are blind to the fact that the gutted ENDA bill weakens workplace protections for all members of the LGBT community, not just those who are transgender. By removing gender expression, the bill leaves out a key element to protect any employee, including lesbians and gay men, who may not conform to their employer's idea of how a man or a woman should look and act, according to a preliminary analysis by Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

    I hope the good journalists at BAR will not accept without scrutiny Lambda Legal's analysis on this point, simply because it fits the publication's editorial position.  Dale Carpenter and I both have challenged, and in my view overcome, Lambda Legal's ENDA argument (which Lambda Legal failed to make for more than a decade while the gay-specific ENDA was pending in Congress and dozens of states and local government were passing gay-specific civil rights bills).

    Windycitytimes Tracy Baim, the publisher and editor of the Windy City Times, also weighed in strongly against Barney's ENDA strategy:

    The activists should look to Illinois for an example of a “no compromise” plan that succeeded. Our state bill included sexual orientation and gender identity, and it is now the law of the Land of Lincoln.

    Rep. Frank’s rationale for these maneuvers sounds good on paper, but does not represent the reality for our community. We cannot ever justify exclusion as a course of action. To sever a significant part of our community would be wrong. If it takes losing “T” to get our rights, none of us should want those rights.

    I don't think it's fair to compare passing something through Congress to getting it through the Illinois state legislature, given that Illinois is decidedly more red blue than the rest of the country.

    The second point Tracy makes is a head-scratcher to me. Not because I don't understand it, but because I don't see why she doesn't understand the converse: The real immorality is to make the gay Americans who work in the 31 states that unlike hers don't have workplace protections wait until Congress and the president are ready to protect a vastly smaller number of transgender workers as well.  Such a strategy is virtually unprecedented in the history of civil rights law.

    Southernvoice On that point, my respected former colleague Laura Douglas Brown at Southern Voice in Atlanta makes a humdinger of a point. In an editorial that stopped just short of outright supporting Barney's strategy, Laura responds to the bigger civil rights picture:

    In a telephone news conference held Tuesday by the coalition, H. Alexander Robinson, director of the National Black Justice Coalition, cited the example of the fight for full equality for African Americans. He said that those rights often came incrementally, but argued that, "the rights that were extended … were extended to everyone."

    "We waited for voting rights. We waited for housing rights," he said.

    In reality, however, voting rights weren't extended to "everyone." The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave voting rights to black men — a move that outraged suffragettes, including Susan B. Anthony, who had also been ardent abolitionists and refused to support the male-only amendment. The resulting controversy split the movement for women's suffrage and perhaps contributed to the years of delay before women — white and black — finally gained the right to vote in 1920.

    Should black men have had to wait another 50 years to get their right to vote, until the country was ready to pass suffrage for women, too? Or would women's suffrage have come sooner if it remained linked to votes for black men?

    Is it more selfish for gay people to abandon trans people, or for trans people to demand that gay, lesbian and bisexual people wait for job protections — maybe for decades — until they can be included too?

    Exactly. No one celebrates the fact that progress has to be incremental, but it is an inevitability accepted by almost everyone, including those of us waiting in foreign countries for Congress to address our issue: immigration rights for binational gay couples.

    Baywindows Finally, Susan Ryan-Vollmar at Bay Windows (in Boston) has some finger-wagging for those like her counterpart at the Bay Area Reporter who insist on ideological purity at the expense of practicality:

    Claiming that Frank has betrayed the trans community, as some are now doing (Los Angeles Times sportswriter Christine Daniels wrote this week that he was engaged in a strategy to “throw the transfolk overboard”) is breathtakingly ignorant of the facts.

    The targeting of the Human Rights Campaign for its failure to align itself with the LGBT organizations that have promised to work to defeat a non-inclusive ENDA is equally ignorant of reality. Who can seriously expect the nation’s largest organization working to pass legislation on our behalf to refuse to work with Pelosi and Frank?

    This petulant insistence on purity, principle and perfection is a hallmark not just of the LGBT community, but of American politics in general. Just look at James Dobson’s and the Christian right’s demands that the Republican Congress take up an overly broad Federal Marriage Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when a much narrower provision that would have allowed for civil unions stood a much better chance of passage.

    Not that I’m comparing progressive LGBT activists with the Christian right. After all, the Christian right is capable of delivering votes, huge sums of money to candidates and hundreds of thousands of phone calls to lawmakers when an issue is deemed important enough to warrant it. Progressive activists? Not so much.

    It's noteworthy that all four of these editorialists are lesbians -- assuming the BAR's Cynthia Laird wrote that paper's unsigned editorial. It goes to show that no part of our community is free from the division wrought by this wrongheaded and short-sighted strategy.  Someone should remind Matt Foreman.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

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    Comments

    1. Amicus on Oct 8, 2007 7:25:20 PM:

      Petulant insistence?

      Pshaw!

      34 companies in the Fortune 500 already living with the Illinois law.

      Companies that are household names, many of them, including State Farm and Walgreens.

      Seems like there is more problem in Washington and those who have projected a lack of "votes" there to a need to divide the community to accommodate that:

      Companies in Illinois:
      http://illinoisbiz.biz/NR/rdonlyres/35D2688E-ADFB-40FC-B80D-B7657D8E40B3/0/Fortune500_2004.pdf

      (btw, I think you meant "blue" rather than "red" for Illinois, above, yes?)

    1. Bloggernista on Oct 8, 2007 7:34:59 PM:

      Where was all those hooting and hollering about ENDA when the trans-inclusive bill was introduced five months ago? It sure would have helped to build support for the bill. Now what we are seeing is more energy around a movement to oppose a sexual orientation only ENDA than there is energy advocating for a trans-inclusive ENDA.

      If I were an anti-gay Republican, I would be sitting in my most comfy chair with a cherry coke and popcorn enjoying the sight of LGBT groups, activists and publications spending so much time fighting each other rather than focused on educating members of Congress.

      Its disappointing and frustrating to see this happening.

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 8, 2007 10:23:19 PM:

      Darnit Amicus, I always get the red-blue thing backward. I guess I think the GOP would hate to be red since it's the commie color. Thanks for setting me straight, even if your analogy to the Fortune 500 ignores that the mainstream U.S. is not anywhere close to ready to deal with the workplace rights of transsexuals and cross-dressers.

      Amen, Bloggernista! It is amazing to me to see so much energy generated AGAINST a gay-specific ENDA and against HRC. The cynic in me thinks Matt Foreman and the Task Force are motivated as much by marginalizing HRC as by his lingering guilt over passing a gay-specific civil rights law in New York.

    1. anon on Oct 9, 2007 12:02:11 AM:

      Well, Matt Foreman may also be motivated by money. I expect that donations will be pouring in, even though they are pretty ineffective on the Hill (and I imagine they will continue to be even with this mess). When's the last time they stopped something bad from happening in Congress? You can criticize HRC -- and I do with regard to this mess -- but at least HRC has been on the front lines in Congress for years, unlike the Task Force. HRC (and to a certain extent Log Cabin) was the driving force behind the overwhelming defeat of the FMA in 2004 & 2006 -- both election years, in case you forgot.

      I agree -- call your legislators and tell them to support a gender identity-inclusive bill!! Better yet, go visit them in your hometown at their district offices! It's really easy to do -- easier than a trip to the DMV, that's for sure. Just send a written fax request for an in district meeting. You can find your legislator's contact info at www.house.gov (enter your zip code in the box in the upper right hand corner). C'mon folks, it takes much less time than bitching on this blog to e-mail or call your House member!

    1. Amicus on Oct 9, 2007 1:14:15 AM:

      Did I miss the post where you put up something to back the claim about the general public?

      Here is what I have: "In fact, recent polling shows 61 percent of registered voters and 85 percent of registered GLBT voters support workplace protections for transgender people." - Cheryl Jacques, 2004

      As you have already made the case, it doesn't matter where the heck the electorate is, if you believe in PW vs. Higgins as fully as you do.

      SONDA was five years ago. Would you deny that a lot has changed since then?

      I am so far out of it (without regret), but I doubt seriously that NGLTF is trying to 'stick it' to the HRC on this. The HRC is in a unique position because it scores the Congress, whereas others do not. That's all.

    1. Amicus on Oct 9, 2007 1:17:07 AM:

      er. that'd be PW vs Hopkins.

      (we all have an eraser at the top of our pencils ...)

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 9, 2007 1:52:50 AM:

      Quoting Cheryl Jacques, then of HRC, quoting a poll that was worded and conducted by HRC is the political equivalent of smoking your own dope. It makes you feel better, but you're still trippin'.

      I would back my sense up by the House whip saying that trans-inclusive ENDA is 70-80 votes shy of passage in the House, by far the less conservative of the two houses of Congress. And Mara Keisling, the country's leading transgender activist, predicted this week that it would take 15 years to pass a trans-specific version of ENDA.

      Does that sound like sufficient political support to you?

    1. jstephenclark on Oct 9, 2007 1:57:30 AM:

      Amicus, whatever the current state of the trans issue is in New York five years after SONDA, the national environment for the trans issue is probably not as good as in New York in 2002.

      All this argumentation about how there really is support for a tran-inclusive bill is just so much denial.

      The deal with the devil to get Democratic majorities involved supporting moderate and conservative Democratic candidates in some marginal and conservative districts. We can't wish away those moderates and conservatives now just because their majority-creating presence is now inconvenient.

    1. Andoni on Oct 9, 2007 4:18:37 AM:

      How did we get into this mess? Who allowed a bill that did not have enough confirmed votes to get hearings and get scheduled for a vote. This is a case study in how NOT do things.

      That said, we are where we are. If the bill has indeed been changed now to a sexual orientation only bill and does have the votes to pass, I believe it is unethical not to pass it.

      We have been making the case for years that anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is a big problem, people are being hurt, suffering and lives are being ruined. Liken it to a disease. How can you morally choose not to go forward with a cure if you have one for 90% of these people? That doesn't mean you stop working on the cure for the other 10%, but you certainly don't actively scuddle the cure that would stop the misery and suffering for the 90%.

      Another analogy. Remember the Immigration Reform Bill? There was a cutoff date for when an illegal immigrant could or would qualify to be part of the legislation. If the date was January 1, 2007, a million more immigrants would qualify for the program. But they pushed the date back to sometime prior to that. Did the Immigrant Community say no, unless you make it January 1, 2007, we will oppose the bill. No, they took what was possible, even if it meant that a million of their people would not qualify, but they were happy that 11 million would.

      There are countless examples in history to demonstrate that the position of those 100+ organizations is simply idealistic, but certainly not realistic.

    1. Amicus on Oct 9, 2007 12:50:34 PM:

      Do you have any reason to believe that Cheryl Jacques lied? Do you really doubt the American public that much on employment issues? I sure as heck don't.

      I'm unaware of any official Whip count (in fact, there is word that none was ever done), so I'll take that with a grain of salt.

      I don't know Mara Keisling or how good a prognosticator she might be, so I'll ask you to back up her judgment with *something*, anything at this point.

      Show me your list of places where Gender inclusive legislation has been tried and not passed, and I'll show you the list of ordinances around the country where it HAS been passed.

      Five years after SONDA there are more legislatures who have passed Gender inclusion and far more companies - far more - who have adopted gender identity policies, either voluntarily or otherwise. So, until someone shows me something other than the AFA's protestations, I'm not persuaded.

      Five years after SONDA, we have cross-dressing Rudy Giuliani as the GOP frontrunner. Remind me again how phobic people truly are on these issues? I'd bet that even the 65+ generation polls better on this issue than they are on 'gay marriage'.

      ...I believe it is unethical not to pass it/

      Well, how 'bout this:

      I believe it is unethical to verbally, publicly, and stridnetly signal a compromise to those opposed in *advance* of having tried to the maximum to get an inclusive bill passed.

      Have you considered that all the insistence on compromise may have in fact, pushed out the possibility of inclusion ad infinitum? All the opponents have to do now is wait for "the weaklings" to force a compromise on their lesser parts, right?

      You may be the kind of lieutenant who is happy to "save" 10 men and leave behind 1, but I'm not. I'd like to see the entire team get home.

      I've looked at your other examples, but I'm also not fully persuaded.

      There are limits to compromise, yes?

      Would you "accept" a compromise that freed 15% of black slaves, because they had 8/10th white blood?

      Would there be such a thing as being a "20% Abolitionist", in principle? No!

      What's the flag that you are going to wave for ending employment discrimination based on sexuality? ::

      "Join us! We're for the Best that We can Do!"

    1. Amicus on Oct 9, 2007 1:10:28 PM:

      How did we get into this mess?
      -----
      It would have been nice to know well in advance whether gender identity was a problem.

      However, sometimes things do not play out until the last minute with legislation.

      Strictly from a decision process management viewpoint, the root of the problem is that a 'solution' was presented to 'the community', rather than a problem.

    1. Citizen Crain on Oct 9, 2007 1:54:33 PM:

      Amicus...come on, enough with the straw men. I never said Cheryl Jacques lied. But it's Beltway Politics 101 that when an interest group polls the public, choosing the wording etc, the numbers aren't reliable.

      Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the House Committee with jurisdiction over ENDA, said in a videotaped interview (http://tinyurl.com/26e9nb) that the whip count was 70-80 votes short.

      Mara Keisling is head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, the country's largest and most respected trans rights group. If you don't credit her educated view about the prospects of GENDA as "something," then that's your choice.

      You are certainly on your own suggesting that Barney's compromise strategy has weakened chances of a trans-inclusive bill. All evidence ("something") is to the contrary: it has galvanized trans rights supporters to do the heavy lobbying they should have been doing for weeks, months, years now.

      I do agree with your last comment, about the way the issue was presented to "the community." But I would remind you that some of us have stated "the problem" clearly for years, only to be attacked for doing so. Hard to blame others for not wanting the same heat.

    1. Double T on Oct 9, 2007 4:18:44 PM:

      Chris, as a HUGE supporter of HRC, having just read three documents that the HRC Board of Governors has put out, I’m very disappointed. They want their cake and eat it too.

      And I must confess, part of the problem was ME. I admit it; I wasn’t current on the whole TransGender side of the story. I figured it really doesn’t apply to me. I’m guilty of being complacent.

      I still think it’s going forward without the 'T'.

      And did Matt Foreman "lie", well beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      You see the cup half empty, he sees it half full.

    1. Amicus on Oct 9, 2007 7:20:41 PM:

      If you don't credit her educated view ...

      I certainly give her credit for her *view*. What is in question is her forecasting ability.

      Just to contrast, in what year did you (or anyone) predict that this would be the year for Hate Crime Legislation to pass?

      What year do you believe that ENDA (non trans) will become law? What year do you believe that federal immigration rights for those in the community will be granted?

      See my point? You are informed too, so ...

      The current trends are all in favor of adoption of gender identity and gender expression. So far, progress is not caught up behind some insurmountable hurdle. I will say, however, that showing weakened support for it among those who might show 'understanding' the most is not helpful, if not an outright impediment - just as it would be for anything?

      As for Jacques, she had a poll, even though you are right that we might be naturally skeptical of it. (Isn't it also beltway 101 not to go with your 'gut feel' on emotive issues?) I believe, but I'm not certain, that the panel that Witcomb runs (for the Harris project) has similar poll results. That would be a second source.

      The good 'ol US electorate has consistently felt strongly about non-discrimination in employment. Even after taking steep haircuts from her figures, one can infer that we're not at rock-bottom support for gender identity. (Besides, last I looked, the Blade's own online poll was providing in-group numbers that were an exact match.)

      Looking at how the 'strategy' may have galvanized *one* group, I'll just say I hope you are right but I'm sticking with my assessment, for now.

      some of us have stated "the problem"...

      Truly fair enough, but only to an extent. "Transjacking", for instance, is probably NOT a fair or helpful statement of "the problem".

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