November 12, 2007
The dissent becomes the mainstream
Posted by: Chris
(UPDATE: At the end of the post):
At some point, the claim by the "United ENDA" crowd to represent the interests of gay Americans becomes laughable. In addition to the Human Rights Campaign poll showing 70% of actual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people support the compromise ENDA -- a result backed up by our own online poll -- there are the growing number of gay newspapers and gay bloggers and, of course, HRC, the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights abandoning the "trans or bust" strategy.
The House vote was overwhelming in favor of the compromise ENDA, with only seven members dissenting on transgender grounds. Even Tammy Baldwin, the trans activists' principal ally, voted for the gay-only ENDA. In a statement she released after the vote, she hailed the compromise that trans activists are calling a betrayal: ""This is an historic moment in the on-going movement for equality in this country. As in all movements, achieving success is a process, and today’s legislative accomplishment marks a milestone, but certainly not the end, of our quest."
Now the country's two most influential mainstream newspapers have weighed in, both in favor of Barney Frank's compromise measure. First the New York Times ("Gay Rights, the Transgendered, and Accepting Partial Progress"):
Not everyone, however, is happy with the [ENDA] vote — and that includes many people who strongly favor gay rights. The “nay” votes included 35 Republicans — despite the efforts of Chris Shays of Connecticut and Deborah Pryce of Ohio to persuade their G.O.P. colleagues to vote in favor — but also some of the House’s most pro-gay-rights members, like Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. The objection of Mr. Nadler and the others: transgendered men and women were stripped from the bill, and would not be protected. If they had been included, the bill likely would not have gotten the necessary votes.
Many gay rights supporters believed it was important to take the victory that was achievable, and vowed to come back another day to fight for the transgendered. “History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, expressing regret about the exclusion but nevertheless urging an “aye” vote. “It is often marked by small and difficult steps.” Ms. Pelosi is right. It’s frustrating to take equality one step at a time. But that is how equal justice has been won in this country.
Then the Washington Post ("A Civil Rights Watershed"):
Many gay rights activists opposed the bill because the final version didn't include protection for transgender people, including those who have changed their sex, who are living their lives as the other sex or who do not conform to traditional gender roles. The omission was a painful but wise choice that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made to increase the bill's chance of passage. Transgender people must channel the activism this action sparked into a long-term effort to educate the public and lawmakers about the discrimination they face.
Both editorials are welcome voices of reason, although the WaPo news desk inexcusably failed to report on House passage of ENDA, instead relying on wire service copy.
With the tide having turned, trans activists are left to bellow, and do so loudly. My old friend Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Voice was practically apoplectic, but after wading through paragraph and paragraph of unsupported insults aimed at the Times editorial board, it finally comes down to her claim that President Bush will veto ENDA, so the whole thing is academic only.
The White House did issue a veto threat, though from the president's advisers, not from him. And after the House amended ENDA to broaden the religious exemption and reassure gay marriage foes, the president's peeps told the Times they would now reevaluate the bill to decide their position.
Park also ignores that Bush also threatened to veto the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill, and yet she and other trans activists never call that bill "dead." That's because it's been attached to Defense Department funding, making a veto a much more difficult proposition. The same could be done with ENDA, though Park and her allies won't tell you that since it doesn't support their claim that ENDA is "dead."
The rumors of ENDA's death are greatly exaggerated, and its trans opponents know it. But they'll leave no sneaky trick untried to undermine passage of historic GLB rights legislation.
UPDATE: Add the Washington Blade to the list of respected newspapers endorsing the compromise ENDA. In an editorial this week, my former colleage Kevin Naff gives voice to the rift I noted yesterday among gays who do not identify as part of an "LGBT community" and backs incremental progress as a political necessity:
Passage of ENDA in any form would make history and no one in the “community” should be rooting for its demise. Politics has never been about “all or nothing” — it’s about the art of the compromise. Gay-only ENDA may not be the perfect bill, but it would bring immediate relief to millions of gays and lesbians hiding in the closet at work, fearful of losing their livelihood if their sexual orientation were exposed.
As someone who has experienced overt workplace discrimination because of my sexual orientation, I find it unconscionable that a few would advocate for the defeat of a bill that stands to benefit so many.
TrackBack URL for this entry:
The comments to this entry are closed.