The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has been put on hold by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., while talks continue over whether transgender people will be included in the measure. The talk of removing trans-protections by taking out gender expression and identity sparked outrage among LGBT groups, who said they would not support the new bill. The new stripped down version of ENDA (SPLENDA) has many serious problems and loopholes besides the odious removal of trans-rights for political expedience.
Lambda Legal issued a scathing report on the proposed bill, saying, "Leaving out protections for transgender people is unacceptable, and passing a bill riddled with loopholes will make it harder to achieve equality on the job. You 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."
Lambda's preliminary findings summary includes these important points:
- "As a point of clarity for the community: The recent version is not simply the old version with the transgender protections stripped out -- but rather has modified the old version in several additional and troubling ways."
- "In addition to the missing vital protections for transgender people on the job, this new bill also 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 woman should look and act. This is a huge loophole through which employers sued for sexual orientation discrimination can claim that their conduct was actually based on gender expression, a type of discrimination that the new bill does not prohibit."
- "This version of ENDA states without qualification that refusal by employers to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of their employees that are provided only to married couples cannot be considered sexual orientation discrimination. The old version at least provided that states and local governments could require that employees be provided domestic partner health insurance when such benefits are provided to spouses."
- "In the previous version of ENDA the religious exemptions had some limitations. The new version has a blanket exemption under which, for example, hospitals or universities run by faith-based groups can fire or refuse to hire people they think might be gay or lesbian."
The proposed SPLENDA bill is completely unacceptable. This new bill is so watered down that it makes no real headway for anyone in our community. Even worse than the weak nature of the bill is the thought that some would simply throw trans-people under the bus and ask them to wait for basic human rights. Are we no better than those against us who would do or say anything to get their goals accomplished, no matter who is hurt or left behind?
We must come together as a community and firmly reject this new version. We must not settle for anything less than an inclusive bill that would offer the same rights and protections to everyone. It is time we started coming together and showing our strength. Passing a meaningful ENDA bill may be a harder battle to win, but in the end it is a fight worth waging.