Rebecca Juro

ENDA Update: The Fork In The Road

Filed By Rebecca Juro | October 27, 2007 2:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Congress, ENDA, gender, GLBT, HRC, LGBT, politics, transgender

If latest reports are true, the Baldwin amendment may be DOA. House leadership is remaining quiet thus far, but if this is actually the case, the House Democratic leadership will have basically two options: They can proceed with the non-inclusive bill, knowing it’s not supported or endorsed by even a single LGBT community or allied civil rights organization, and actively opposed by over 350 of them, or they can just shelve the whole thing to introduce in couple of years when an inclusive bill may have a good chance to actually become law.

It seems likely to me that ENDA will not survive to be voted on during this session of Congress, and if by some chance it is, it will not pass. The reality which even those as arrogant as Barney Frank can no longer ignore is that passing a non-inclusive ENDA not only won’t help Democrats in the next election, but rather will actually serve the opposition, to rally the progressive left against the Democratic Party leadership’s elitism and willful mistreatment of persecuted minority groups to try to pander to wealthy elitists. The last thing Frank and Pelosi want is for Democrats running for reelection is to have to keep explaining to LGBT Americans and our friends and families is why they chose to vote to exclude the poorest and most discriminated against among us from protection under the law, especially when our community banded together millions strong and told them in no uncertain terms that we didn’t want them to do it.

For the Dems, it’s now a lose-lose situation. Should the non-inclusive ENDA be voted on and pass the House, the vast majority of the LGBT community, a constituency the Party is looking to court for votes, campaign participation and endorsements, and financial support, will be furious and will hold it against them. While they may or may not take a major hit in votes, it’s almost certain that when Democrats go looking for support and endorsements from these organizations, their memberships, and their friends and families, those who vote to exclude gender-variant American citizens from employment protections through this bill will not find that support forthcoming, except perhaps from their spineless lapdog, HRC.

In addition, supporting this bill will send a clear message from Congress to the working-class American LGBT community that they really don’t care about what we want or need, that the Democratic leadership will do only what they believe will help to maintain their own power and privilege, that when the chips are down and the legislation is on the line, they will continue to pander exclusively to the uber-wealthy and connected, just as they’ve always done. All that “Vote for change!” rhetoric will fall worse than flat in such a political climate, and the Dems surely know it.

Therefore, in my opinion, the only logical option for the Democrats right now, the one that hurts them the least going into an election season, the one that makes this issue go away for a couple of years, is to withdraw the bill and try again after the election.

If this does prove to be the case, it may make all the difference as far as equality for gender-variant Americans goes. If this bill goes down, it’ll be blamed on the trannies, but in reality it won’t be as much transpeople ourselves who killed it as it will be the courage and dearly-held values of the greater LGBT community and those Members of Congress who really believe that the ideals upon which this country was founded are more than just pretty words who really did the deed. It will make the statement, once and for all, that while the perception may not have made it completely into the mainstream as yet, for the LGBT community, discriminating against gender-variant people is no less offensive or worthy of being fought against than discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, or biological gender.

Of course, this would be bad for the Democrats and they know it. After all, if they really want to appeal to LGBT voters, it won’t do to support anything non-inclusive lest it be perceived, much as this legislation is, not as a bill to provide gay, lesbian, and bisexual people with rights, but rather as the exercise in bigotry and political opportunism it actually is, providing advantage to the wealthiest, most politically potent groups by denying those very same advantages to the poor and disenfranchised, just like the Republicans have done for the last six and a half years.

Combined with the other bad message this bill would send about willingness of elected officials to respond to the intensive lobbying efforts of their constituents and the unquestionable will of the vast majority of the politically-conscious LGBT community, I doubt they’d dare to try introducing a crippled, exclusionary ENDA with the strong Democratic majority and Democratic President we expect to find in office in ‘09. When you really think about it, it’s the only way that makes Congress seem even somewhat credible when they say they support us and our equality under the law at election time.

By now, it’s common knowledge that ENDA will not become law by ‘09 at the very soonest, and that any attempt to pass this already-doomed bill now is really nothing more than a shameless attempt at pandering to LGBT voters before the election season really begins (i.e. when the Reps and Senators actually start campaigning for their own seats). If the Democrats are so arrogant as to try to pass this incomplete, unwanted piece of crap anyway knowing all this, not only isn’t it going to help them in the more conservative areas, but it will also hurt badly them in the more liberal areas where they’re hoping to see their strongest LGBT community support.

The upshot: Transgender people don’t need more Americans to rally behind us or to do more education in order to simply be considered worthy of being protected under the laws of this country by most of its citizens. We’re past that now. The numbers in our own community are unquestionably on our side, every poll taken indicates that the American public supports protecting transpeople from workplace discrimination far more strongly than they support same-sex marriage or any other gay-only issue. Those old saws just aren’t credible anymore, and now, everyone knows it. That’s not to say we don’t need to continue doing exactly what we’ve been doing, but we’re lobbying not from the perspective of trying to explain ourselves and our needs to the utterly clueless anymore, we’re going into Congressional offices as a valid American minority interest and saying, with the backing of millions behind us, that we demand the same level of representation and support from our elected officials as any American minority group has the right to expect. When you think about it, you know it has to make all the difference in the world, for us, and for those who will be seeking our support and votes, and of those who love and support us.

The only thing Democrats can accomplish now by insisting on proceeding with civil rights legislation that intentionally excludes any minority group from its protections as this bill does is to clearly demonstrate to the American public that they’re willing to help further their own interests by facilitating discrimination against transgender and other gender-variant American citizens through passing a law that would effectively declare open season on us by bigoted employers in defining for them exactly who is protected from workplace discrimination under federal law and who they can continue to freely discriminate against with impunity.

A fork in the road, yes, but a fork with only one path leading to a potentially sunny shore for Democrats looking for LGBT community support, the path of liberty and justice for all. It’ll be interesting to see exactly who and what this Congress really holds dear.


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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | October 27, 2007 6:03 AM

The only thing Democrats can accomplish now by insisting on proceeding with civil rights legislation that intentionally excludes any minority group from its protections as this bill does is to clearly demonstrate to the American public that they’re willing to help further their own interests by facilitating discrimination against transgender and other gender-variant American citizens

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

Wish I had more faith in the Dems to do the right thing.

You know, I still don't see what all the hub-bub has been about since ENDA's not going to pass the Senate or the President's desk anyhow. What's been the all-fired hurry to pass something? I've read that it's so the Dems can come back in the election year and use it as a banner over our heads - "See what WE did for you!" But isn't hate crimes - which are fully inclusive - enough? Instead, now they're trying for a "We protected SOME of you!" approach? Lunacy.

I think we need to examine this issue from a more
mainstream perspective. When you look in the news
you don't see word one about ENDA on the mainstream news. When you ask someone on the street what ENDA is they have no clue. Granted we have a public that can't find their home state on a map without the states being labeled, thank you public education and your dumbing down of the last 2 generations of school children.... But i digresses.....

ENDA has not received 5 minutes of air time on the mainstream media since it's introduction into congress. There are no congressman's political careers who depend on ENDA That is because ENDA's interest group comprises less then 8% of the voting public (a rough estimate mind you)welcome to the real world of politics where a group can be written off so easily, not only be written off but have it's factions played off against each other so very easily.

If i were Barny Frank......
I would want the GLBT to be fighting amongst themselves. Why? the answer should be obvious, as a voting block they are divided and therefore statistically are unimportant to the outcome of anything including my performance rating in my district. solid voting blocks represent a threat, frank must cater to their interests in order to succeed in maintaining his career.

the fix has been all along No inclusive ENDA now or in the near future, and certainly not one under ether party for the foreseeable future. i hate to say i told ya so but well i did.


Take care
Susan Robins

I still think that this is the best quote of the article...

For the Dems, it’s now a lose-lose situation.

Thats says a mouthful.

It is really back to the drawing board here... Do we know of any other time in history that a civil rights group actually opposed the passage of half-assed legislation that was generally going in the right direction?

I'm wondering if we have a first on our hands...

Alex, not only do have a first here in terms of non-support, but we also have a first in terms of community unanimity and intensity of public outcry and lobbying effort on any community-relevant political issue ever, according to everything I've read. Personally, I think that has a lot to do with why so many in Congress are refusing to simply rubber stamp Frank and Pelosi's attempt to sell us out for their own political gain.

Sue, I disagree with you somewhat on your assessment of the media coverage. Yes, it's certainly true that this issue really hasn't hit mainstream television news to any real extent(as far as I know), but it has gotten plenty of coverage in community media such as the LGBT community newspapers and radio. Most importantly, it's gotten a hell of a lot of coverage on the blogs, not only here but also rest of the more popular LGBT-relevant sites. I've also seen several posts on the topic at HuffPo, and as well as a good piece in the NY Times. Considering how we were all but totally ignored even in our own media in '04 when ENDA was last an issue, the difference is nothing less than stunning.

This is just par for the course in terms of how the straight media covers our community. When civil unions passed here in New Jersey last November, our local news did cover it. The item ran a grand total of all of thirty seconds and completely ignored the transgender rights law which had also been voted on and passed the same day. Interestingly, when they showed some quick shots of activists watching the vote, they didn't show the gay activists but two transwomen who were there for the TG rights law.

One thing I've noticed is that one of the biggest differences between then and now is the recent surge in popularity and influence of blogs like Bilerico, Pam's, and others on popular community opinion. Unlike in '04, when we had no choice but to depend on mainstream LGBT community media to get the word out to the community (and they did a damn lousy job of it overall), these days when we don't get the media coverage we're seeking from that quarter, we've shown the political players on all sides that not only can and will we do it ourselves, but that the politically active in our community are now looking to us, not the mainstream media, for credible coverage and opinion on these issues.

There's a reason why blogs like this one get people like Barney Frank, Joe Solmonese, and Matt Foreman contributing, and that's because they know that if they really want to speak to and be heard by the politically-conscious LGBT community, the only way to do it effectively is to come to us and address our readers.

I also believe that it's the blogs which have made ENDA a real issue in the first place. We just didn't see a real intensity of coverage on ENDA in commercial community media until it was already being talked about on a daily basis on the blogs. For that reason, I believe that those of us who speak out on these kinds of issues on the blogs have not only been instrumental in rallying the community to get us as far as have in this battle, but that we also have the responsibility to keep community interest and awareness as high as possible over the long haul on key community-relevant issues like ENDA.

It's an awesome responsibility, when you think about it, but I think we're clearly showing that we're up to task. The rules of politics and political advocacy of changing, and we bloggers are the ones who are changing them. For our community at least, we are now the real media, the place where LGBT people get a significant portion of their information on the issues which directly affect their lives. That, in and of itself, is a victory, and one which is changing the face of politics and political advocacy as we know it.

As time goes on, I believe we'll see this reality continue to have a major positive effect on how our issues are advocated in the political arena, and personally, I'm just thrilled and honored to be able to be a part of it...and you should be too.

This is how we change the world...or, at least, our little corner of it.