The spin continues...on both sides.
Today, Barney Frank issued a press release saying that he supports Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's proposed amendment that would restore gender identity and expression protections to the "rights for straight-looking and acting gays and lesbians only" version of ENDA that passed out of committee yesterday, and which heads to a vote by the full House sometime next week (I've heard Tuesday and Wednesday suggested as likely possibilities). In his statement, Frank said he is urging his colleagues to support the Baldwin Amendment, and also that he will take to the House floor to reiterate his previous comments in favor of gender identity and expression protections (made when he was for transgender inclusion in ENDA before he was against it).
It's interesting to me how for a man who says he's concerned that some Members of Congress will be less likely to vote for a transgender-inclusive bill later if one fails now for fear of being labeled "flip-floppers", Frank himself seems to switch sides on the issue every few days or so, still trying to play both ends against the middle to get his symbolic, unwanted, and severely flawed bill passed. In addition, Frank consistently fails to address the other side of the coin, the concern about how many Members would be hesitant to vote for an inclusive ENDA later should a non-inclusive version pass the House now, or how many Members could be realistically expected to support a GENDA introduced in Congress after a non-inclusive ENDA has already become law.
Frank has never, to my knowledge, publicly addressed this reality, which most in this community clearly understand from previous experience, that if gender identity and expression protections are not included when ENDA initially passes into law, it's highly unlikely that a GENDA bill would even make it to a vote in Congress, much less actually pass into law, for at least the next fifteen to twenty years. It's one thing to ask a violently persecuted minority group to wait just a little longer and work just a little harder to see their rights enshrined into law, but quite another to ask that minority group to give up any hope of being protected under the law from discrimination for a generation or more so that others can be protected sooner.
When you cut out all the politics and posturing, that's really what Frank, Pelosi, and HRC are doing here. They're not asking transpeople to simply wait a little longer for our rights, but rather to give up any reasonable chance of getting those rights for probably at least the better part of the next two decades. Given that, it's hardly surprising that so many in this community have decided that it's just too high a price to ask any group of American citizens to pay in order to help ensure those selfsame rights for others, or even for themselves.
Mara Keisling got it right when she called the non-inclusive ENDA a "vanity bill" for the Human Rights Campaign, but she didn't go far enough. It's also a vanity bill for the Democratic Congressional leadership, a trophy to show off to gay and lesbian voters while stumping for votes in the upcoming election. ENDA, inclusive or not, isn't going to pass the Senate anytime soon, nor will it make it past a virtually certain Presidential veto even if it does, this much we know. What's more, the bloom is already off the rose, even before this thing goes to a vote in the full House. After all this, there's just no way that the passage of a crippled, flawed ENDA in just one house of Congress is going to positively impress most LGBT voters now. It hasn't been PC in our community to talk trash about or exclude transpeople for a long time now, and that's exactly what Frank, Pelosi, and HRC are seen as doing by many. If there's any one commonality which the vast majority of LGBT people share, it's the sense that we're all in this together, for the good of all of us. The political gameplaying going on here with gender-variant American lives and our ability to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our loved ones strikes right at the heart of those values which so many of us hold dear.
While the highly unlikely passage into law of a non-inclusive ENDA before next year's election might indeed help some people, I think Barney Frank's contention that most GLB people would be celebrating it regardless leads me to believe that it's he, not the almost two million inclusively-minded LGBT people who are insisting on real equality under the law for everyone, who's really living in Oz. Even if Frank, Pelosi, and HRC do eventually get their trophy, they'll have gotten it by crushing the hopes and dreams of the poorest and most vulnerable in our community under their heels in order to get it, and knowing that, it's just not going to have the kind of luster for this community which they obviously wanted it to.
Both Frank and Matt Foreman did interviews with LOGO's Jason Bellini on the topic over the last couple of days laying out their positions. While no new information or insights were really offered by either, in my opinion Foreman came off far better than Frank on the personal level, with Frank offering little more than the same tired, condescending sound bites we've been seeing and reading for a week now, while Foreman laid out the moral and common sense arguments of United ENDA in an effective and compelling way which shows why he's the guy we want making our case in the media. Frank, HRC President Joe Solmonese, and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling also appear in another disappointingly short LOGO report on the ENDA battle in Congress.
Personally, while I think it's great that LOGO sent Jason Bellini to DC to do these interviews, it also seems pretty ridiculous to get the guy down there, secure interviews with Frank and Foreman, set it all up, and then offer us a mere five minutes of each. C'mon LOGO, this is politics. There's just no way to give your viewers the whole story in that short of a time frame. If you're going to do it, and you should, then at least do it right and really interview these people fully. If you're not going to do that even for the single biggest LGBT community political story of the year thus far, then it's hard for me to understand why I or anyone in this community should be watching your reports when we can learn far more about the story by visiting just a few of the better blogs and newspaper websites. By now, you guys know you've already seriously embarrassed yourselves once this year by trying to pass off Melissa Etheridge as a journalist at the HRC/LOGO "debate" (not to mention aligning yourselves with HRC in the first place), at least try to do this story justice, huh?
Mara Keisling is asking that we give one final push before the House vote next week and contact our Congresspeople to ask them to support the Baldwin Amendment. Please do...the Congressional switchboard can be reached at 202-224-3121. She also suggests that if your Member of Congress is appearing at an event locally this weekend that you try to talk to them there. Please also don't forget to report the results of your contact so that United ENDA can keep an accurate track of exactly where we are...thanks.
Keep it up, we're just getting to the good part...next week, we finally get to find out exactly who really is on our side and who isn't, and then, the real fun begins.