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  • « Welcome back to the movement, HRC | Main | Ironic headline of the year… »

    November 06, 2007

    Demagoguing to the end…

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman Outmaneuvered by rival HRC and marginalized by the new poll showing 70% of the actual LGBT people disagree with his "United ENDA" farce, Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is not going down without a bit more demagoguing.

    So Foreman took issue with the combined wisdom of the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, among others, all of which argued for incremental progress where achievable. GCN takes it from here:

    NGLTF's Foreman was uncompromising in rejecting what he termed "an inaccurate analogy" between incrementalism in the Civil Rights era and accepting a non-inclusive ENDA today.

    "At no time during the African-American Civil Rights movement were light-skinned African Americans or dark-skinned African Americans left behind," Foreman told Gay City News. "What is being lost is that we need to be working for the best law, not a bill that can be passed today."

    There's nothing new in Foreman's effort to divide rather than unite, suggesting that the compromise ENDA will "leave behind" gender non-conforming gays, who are the "dark-skinned blacks" in his analogy.  I acknowledged the divide in a blog post weeks ago, and engaged Lambda Legal in a respectful debate on the legal limits of the compromise ENDA as well.

    What's new is Foreman's attempt to play wedge politics with the divide, now that it's clear what a small sliver of the community he represents. Only time will tell whether the Task Force and its "trans or bust" abandon the strategy that is responsible for so much damage and divisiveness.

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    Comments

    1. JD on Nov 6, 2007 7:15:14 PM:

      Good lord, it's nice to see a blogger who supports pragmatism and clearheadedness over ideology. Thanks!

    1. Double T on Nov 6, 2007 7:19:05 PM:

      Chris, you did ask for LEADERSHIP. We can't have these people simply "following" the polls can we?

    1. Brian Miller on Nov 6, 2007 7:59:38 PM:

      The constant bickering and endless divisive posturing over this useless ENDA law makes me despair for our future.

      Even if you accept that government special-rights laws like ENDA actually work (they don't -- just look at income levels for blacks or women), almost all of the "activists" claiming to be right on either side of the bash-the-transfolk debate already live in jurisdictions where they're covered by state and federal versions of ENDA.

      So the whole thing is a complete and utter waste of time and resources that could be devoted to chasing real equality for the entire community -- in marriage, adoption, tax treatment -- rather than this absurd symbolic legislation that's serving as "symbolism" for politicos' lack of comfort with transgender people.

    1. Brian Miller on Nov 6, 2007 8:02:13 PM:

      Oops, make that state and LOCAL versions of ENDA.

      But the point stands, nonetheless. Nothing is more pathetic than watching this endless battle between San Franciscans, New Yorkers, and Washingtonians on whose view of a redundant and useless law (which has no purpose other than absolving Democrats of real action on real issues of equality) should be passed.

    1. Andoni on Nov 6, 2007 8:07:54 PM:

      Excuse me. I don't live in a jurisdiction where I am already covered by some kind of ENDA. I live in the South and this law will be of enormous benefit.

      Look, if you want to get all those other things you think are more important, you have to start somewhere. If you observe all those other countries that have made great strides in gay rights over the past 10 years, it all began with something straight forward and easy. Once the log jam broke, each subsequent law was easier and easier.

      Let's not be stupid here. Let's get this ENDA through now --- prime the pump so to speak. Once we show we can do this, more and better things will flow after that.

    1. ted on Nov 6, 2007 8:39:29 PM:

      Brian Miller, I wonder if you're joking or if you're really that naive and self-centered.

    1. Brian Miller on Nov 6, 2007 8:42:31 PM:

      I live in the South and this law will be of enormous benefit.

      No it won't. It hasn't been of enormous benefit in areas where it already exists! In fact, the primary argument that its supporters invoke is that employment special-rights laws at a state level have failed -- so we need yet another employment special-rights law but at a federal level, because apparently the federal government is magical.

      f you observe all those other countries that have made great strides in gay rights over the past 10 years, it all began with something straight forward and easy.

      We're not "other countries. And ENDA is hardly "straight forward and easy" -- it's a bonanza for the trial lawyer lobby, and millions of pages of complicated legislation.

      Let's not be stupid here.

      That's why I'm opposing ENDA.

      You don't win the moral and logical debate for equal rights under the law by arguing for a special rights law like ENDA.

      Special rights laws like ENDA create resentment in the majority class, who are less likely to support equality in other areas.

      Claiming a "right" to employment that exists only for sexual minorities creates a legal (and logical) precedent for a "right" to marriage, adoption, and military service that exists only for heterosexuals. Talk about counterproductive!

    1. Brian Miller on Nov 6, 2007 8:43:52 PM:

      I wonder if you're joking or if you're really that naive and self-centered.

      I'm just thinking through the issues, while you're "feeling" through them. That's why your only response is a personal attack, rather than a look at the reality of the situation.

    1. adamblast on Nov 6, 2007 9:15:59 PM:

      Your take on ENDA is far too libertarian for my liking. I support civil rights legislation as a whole, which you seem to denigrate as special rights laws.

      I'm certainly not as qualified to debate my side of a civil rights law debate as you are--I bow to any libertarian when it comes to being verbose on the web or getting in the last word.

      I believe that my best shot at getting my rights of marriage, adoption and military service, as you grouped them, lies in passing HR 3685.

    1. ted on Nov 6, 2007 9:49:47 PM:

      Mr. Miller, do you have any other rebuttals besides conservative blog cliches? "Special rights"? "Thinking" versus "feeling"? Come on!

      I'm thinking pretty clearly here.

      First, Libertarianism is basically narcissism as political philosophy, so calling you self-centered is not as much an attack as a description.

      Second, naive may be the wrong word for your attitude. Weird might be better. Your argument simply doesn't make any sense; you have no support for it. We shouldn't pass civil rights legislation because it makes us easier to discriminate against? We shouldn't pass civil rights laws because they annoy straight white men? Anti-discrimination laws that protect women and racial minorities are useless because they... well, you didn't even bother to provide a wacky reason for that one.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 6, 2007 11:58:52 PM:

      My, my, Miller definitely doesn't seem to get the language of the legislation. If he actually got past that smugness of his, he could see that the wording is neutral in the category; the majority is protected, too. Sexual orientation does not only denote homosexual; it works both ways, homosexual AND heterosexual. Same with gender, race, and religion.

      These are not "special rights." These are insurances to maintain the right to equal opportunity that the Constitution guarantees.

    1. anonym on Nov 7, 2007 1:50:17 AM:

      the non-inclusive bill didn't have to get this far. if HRC had spent a FRACTION of its 35 mil lobbying the hill for a bill it drafted itself, we would never be at this point. as it stands, straight white women run the political department at HRC -- none of whom have one iota of experience in LGBT activism.

    1. anonym on Nov 7, 2007 1:51:32 AM:

      the non-inclusive bill didn't have to get this far. if HRC had spent a FRACTION of its 35 mil lobbying the hill for a bill it drafted itself, we would never be at this point. as it stands, straight white women run the political department at HRC -- none of whom have one iota of experience in LGBT activism.

    1. Double T on Nov 7, 2007 2:12:28 AM:

      Today's blog subject is

      National Gay & Lesbian Task Force(M.Foreman)

      1)But every keeps focusing on HRC. Why is that?

      2)All of this merely academic. The ENDA bird is never going to fly. Hopefully ENDA won't end up like the Dodo.

      But the debate has been educational(and sometimes entertaining).

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 7, 2007 3:26:45 AM:

      Brian, I agree with those who argue that workplace rights are by no means the most important form of civil rights protections, especially for this movement. A higher priority than regulating private conduct by employers ought to be stopping our own government from discriminating against us, whether in military service, adoption or equal rights for gay couples.

      That said, ENDA has been at the top of "the gay agenda" because HRC successfully convinced everyone that it was the most politically feasible item on our list, especially after the DOMA, Don't Ask Don't Tell debacles of the first Clinton term.

      I don't think you support your case at all that gay workplace protections haven't worked even where they exist. As I've pointed out before, much of the impact is proactive, in employers taking steps to avoid litigation exposure, and thereby creating bias-free workplaces.

      There's also a huge symbolic advance in enshrining 'sexual orientation' in federal civil rights laws. The other side knows that; it's why they are lobbying Bush to veto legislation that they know is supported by a majority of Americans, and even a majority of Republicans.

    1. Kevin on Nov 7, 2007 9:04:20 AM:

      You're right, Chris. The political, the symbolic and the legal reasons for ENDA have been clear since it was fashioned together in 1994.

      Brian also does raise a few valid criticisms of both the process and the limits of ENDA. But to raise those criticisms as part of an effort to "oppose" ENDA is a sad twist, Brian. Plenty of people sympathize with some of your critiques, but to argue that ENDA creates "special rights" that no one else has outside a particular group is a serious misreading of the legislation, and you need to do some more research. Yes, we won't win the hearts and souls of the country with ENDA - but we have a a gigantic task list and we've barely gotten our act together yet to start checking off the boxes. *Some* form of a legislative victory is very necessary right now, or the whole effort by gay Democrats to argue a change in party was all we needed will show up empty. That would be pretty devastating for the movement, and the last thing we need (no matter what our individual partisan tendencies).

      Most reasonable people are all for real debate, but it need not be so riven with extremes. That's been why this whole ENDA process was derailed in the first place. Matt Foreman was far too extreme and lacking in vision, and HRC was (as usual) far too cowardly, and there is a vacuum of clear-headed leadership in the movement today. None of these things take away the ultimate value of passing ENDA, even though Bush is certain to veto it.

      We need not all march in lobotomized lock-step behind it, but we do need a constructive (not de-structive) debate on what comes next, how ENDA fits in, and how much we're going to demand of our so-called friends, and what our real goals as a movement are -- legal, political, moral, whatever. I just wish people with extreme ideological positions -- from libertarian to the trans-or-bust camp -- didn't eat up all the oxygen in the room for the simple fact that the movement's leaders are so out to lunch.

    1. Andoni on Nov 7, 2007 9:41:30 AM:

      At the moment, Barney Frank is the real leader of the movement. As for HRC's timidity to take a stand, that's been the modus operandi --- for BOTH of them.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Nov 7, 2007 1:15:13 PM:

      "*Some* form of a legislative victory is very necessary right now, or the whole effort by gay Democrats to argue a change in party was all we needed will show up empty. That would be pretty devastating for the movement, and the last thing we need (no matter what our individual partisan tendencies)."

      Oh, I think it's the FIRST thing we need.

      Because, in the long run, "we hate Republicans no matter what and obediently serve Democrats no matter what" is the recipe for complete and utter irrelevance. Neither side is going to pay any attention to you when they know it doesn't make a bit of difference; the Democrats will have your votes and the Republicans won't regardless of how they act.

      The reason ENDA is going down is simple; neither side gains anything for supporting it, and both sides stand to lose something for doing it. I find it ironic that the freshman House pseudo-Republican Democrats who Solmonese and Tim Gill were licking balls for last fall and pumping millions of dollars towards are the ones who basically shot down the legislation because they didn't want to have to explain their contradictory position to their constituency. But is it going to stop the ATM from Gill and Solmonese and Foreman? No, because failure to give cuts off their cocktail-party invites from Hillary, and without those, they'll just die.

    1. Darrell on Nov 7, 2007 3:04:24 PM:

      In response to Brian, the security that comes from employment for each individual and their ability to provide for their family is critical. The data from the MAP program at the Gill Foundation to the data from the Williams Institute and other orgs is VERY clear, if properly implemented employment protections are critical and thousands of gay and lesbian people currently live without them.

      On the topic of this blog, I have two thoughts.
      1. As a long time Taskforce supporter, I must admit, HRC (despite their flip flopping) in the end got this one right and the Taskforce as is typical with their more grassroots nature is too caught up in philosophy than the practicality of protecting 80% of our community and moving on to fight for the rest.

      2. What this is truly more symptomatic of is our "community's" true lack of leadership when it comes to legal equality. How do we expect non-gay elected officials to ever work with us in a productive manner when our own house isn't in order and we are as divided as we are. Can the national LGBT orgs ever reach consensus on things before we push congress? I imagine in the eyes of the average elected officials that we look quite similar to my cat who loves to spin in circles chasing her tail.

      Can someone find us a real leader to put at the helm of one of these orgs?

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Nov 7, 2007 3:25:41 PM:

      "In response to Brian, the security that comes from employment for each individual and their ability to provide for their family is critical."

      Critical for whom?

      Obviously not straight white males, who no one seems to think deserve any employment protections whatsoever.

      Furthermore, as cases like Bonnie Bleskachek demonstrate, ENDA laws prevent gay people from being fired even if they commit gross acts of sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace.

      Meanwhile, private industry, quite on its own, has gone out and written its own nondiscrimination policies, based on the simple logic that it makes very little business sense to discriminate against people who can do the job for reasons unrelated to it.

      "What this is truly more symptomatic of is our "community's" true lack of leadership when it comes to legal equality."

      Or, more precisely, our confusing of special rights and protections with "equality".

      Right now, we are equal in terms of employment law; there is nothing protecting straight people from being hired or fired because of their sexual orientation, either.


    1. Lucrece on Nov 7, 2007 11:26:02 PM:

      NDT, what makes you think there is no protection for the straight white male? I'll repeat myself one last time: The protected categories are neutral; they neither favor majorities or minorities. White is a race, therefore protected by prohibitions on job discrimination based on race. Straight is as much as a sexual orientation as gay is, thus it would also be protected under ENDA.

    1. Dennis Chase on Nov 10, 2007 2:54:42 PM:

      Matt Foreman and the NGLTF is a spineless, politically correct de jour, ineffective, naïve, counter-productive organization that is just as dangerous to gay and lesbian people as the ultra-conservative far right. How dare that organization try to make political points with the T community on the very day that a monumental bill passed the US House of Representatives. How dare they not embrace and celebrate this tremendous step to victory for gay men and lesbians.

      Is Matt Foreman and the NGLTF an agent for the benefit of gay men and lesbians? No, they are not. They are a pressure group beholding organization that will sacrifice the good of gay men and lesbians for personal empire-building.

      Good Bless Barney Frank and his leadership ability. The gay rights movement has benefited from his intellect, courage, political astuteness and political savvy. The NGLTF is not only useless, it is sabotaging civil rights for gays and lesbians in the name of empire-building.

    1. Dennis Chase on Nov 10, 2007 3:04:19 PM:

      Chris,

      I couldn't agree with you more regarding the symbolic advance of enshrining 'sexual orientation' in federal civil rights laws. This is so overdue and the vote in the US House of Representatives last week was very encouraging.

      Thanks so much for the thinking mans/womans blog!

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