Update: Everything you could possibly want to know about efforts to insure an inclusive ENDA, all in one place: www.unitedenda.org
Correction: Rep. Tammy Baldwin did NOT add her name to the new version of ENDA introduced by Rep. Barney Frank.
Equality Virginia today joined a list of 90 national and regional GLBT advocacy organizations in a statement opposing any “substitute legislation” designed to replace the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act. See the statement and list of signatories. Rep. Barney Frank, in cooperation with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
and Rep. Tammy Baldwin, in the misguided belief that incremental progress is better than a united front, has introduced a new version of ENDA that only refers to sexual orientation (and oh, by the way, another unnamed afterthought of a bill that would provide employment protection for transgender people, if it were ever voted on.) Frank claims that this is the way the civil rights movement did it, but let’s be clear. This is not sending the transgender community to the back of the bus. This is throwing the transgender community under the bus.
This, in part, is what one of those 90 organizations had to say about it to their members:
With not an ounce of equivocation and with fury over this potential Congressional disgrace, Garden State Equality hereby declares that we will work passionately to oppose any form of ENDA that excludes the transgender community. We wish to emphasize what our opposition would mean. We would not merely be silent or neutral on an ENDA that excludes the transgender community. We would actively oppose the bill.
I concur. I will actively work to defeat this version of ENDA, should it get to that point. As a friend just told me, “I’m disgusted. I’ll take my workplace discrimination protections when we ALL have them, thank you.”
HRC has signed on to a different statement from another list of civil rights organizations.
I know that Frank and Co. believe they are taking the pragmatic course, but there is a very good pragmatic reason that they are wrong. Discrimination against gay and lesbian people is frequently based on their gender expression, not their sexual orientation. According to Lambda Legal executive director Kevin Cathcart, under the “new” ENDA, “[y]ou can’t be fired for being a lesbian or a gay man, but you can be fired if your boss thinks you fit their stereotype of one.” In other words, an employer sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, and is therefore not a violation of ENDA. In addition to the moral vacuity of betrayal it represents, this bill would be toothless even with regard to sexual orientation.
In spite of this, here is a summation of what Frank apparently thinks is important:
He acknowledges that the transgender version is not likely to come up for a vote in Congress any time soon.
“It comes down to three choices,” Frank said Friday. “We vote on a bill with the transgender [clause] and we lose, we pull the bill altogether, or we pass the one with sexual orientation.”
“If we hold it back, the headlines will say, ‘Democratic Congress withdraws gay rights bill.’
So what? Our headlines will say “Equality advocates get a clue, learn from the past, and refuse to abandon part of community.”