April 03, 2008
Learning the lessons of ENDA . . . not
Posted by: Chris
Just weeks after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was declared dead for the year by the Human Rights Campaign, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy appears to be sticking by his promise for a Senate vote on the bill, albeit later than the original January-February timetable.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Kennedy defended his decision to move forward with the version of ENDA that passed the House, which includes sexual orientation as a protected category but not gender identity:
"The fact is that the House of Representatives has taken action," Kennedy said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "The best opportunity for progress is ... to follow along on the action of the House of Representatives, and then look down the road to a new day after we have a good Democratic Congress and a Democratic president."
Kennedy expects an "uphill fight" in the narrowly divided Senate, where 60 votes rather than a simple majority would be needed to overcome expected GOP stalling tactics.
That "uphill fight" will also pit Kennedy against the intransigent left of the GLBT movement, which hasn't moved a muscle since the debacle of last fall's fight over ENDA in the House:
"We will strongly oppose it," said Roberta Sklar of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Leaving transgender people out makes that a flawed movement." …
"It was made very clear in the fall that most LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organizations, the vast majority of LGBT organizations, do not want Congress to shove a civil rights bill down our throat that we don't want," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Sklar is right, of course, that a gay-only ENDA is "flawed," but so would be a trans-inclusive ENDA, since it would protect the workplace but not in housing and public accommodations; it also carves an exception for the U.S. military -- where the government itself is the discriminatory employer. But flawed incremental progress is inevitable to any civil rights movement.
Sklar, Keisling and their "United ENDA" allies know this, but they are willing to sacrifice an advance that would benefit almost everyone for the few who would not be helped; even though it's politically impossible to help those few nor or anytime in the near future.
And there there is HRC, whose Joe Solmonese started the unfounded rumor of ENDA's death in Los Angeles several weeks ago, sitting on the sideline being ineffectual:
"We will continue this work until all members of our community no longer fear being fired for who they are," said Brad Luna, Human Rights Campaign communications director.
OK, but what in the heck does that mean? Is HRC supporting Kennedy's gay-only ENDA or reverting to its disastrous flirtation with the United ENDA crowd? If the organization cannot even communicate its position -- the HRC website and blog are devoid of any reaction to Kennedy's ENDA announcement -- then how could it possibly lobby effectively?
(Photo of Ted Kennedy via Associated Press)
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