As the drama around the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to unfold, there are two hard facts that we must face head on. One, we are victims of House politics in which the House leadership decided to remove gender identity from the bill and two, we led ourselves into believing that adding gender identity to ENDA would not be that big of a pill for members of Congress to swallow.
It is clear as the nose on Barbara Streisand's gorgeous face that the House leadership including Nancy Pelosi and George Miller made the decision to remove gender identity from ENDA because they believe that the votes are not there for an inclusive bill and they are feeling tremendous pressure to get something, anything passed. Its also clear that they would not have done this without the consent of congressional go-to-gay Barney Frank. Frank was long opposed to adding gender identity to ENDA and the hate crimes bill. He was finally convinced to do so after much effort by LGBT groups including the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Transgender Equality and ACLU.
Pelosi is facing a deadline in that she is scheduled to be a featured speaker at the HRC National Dinner on October 6 and is loathe to show up without gift in hand. That's a key reason that gender identity was removed and that there is a sudden push for markup of the bill this week.
We also convinced ourselves that the addition of gender identity would not cause much of a ripple on Capitol Hill and that we would not lose congressional support. Some activists underestimated the work that would have to be done to educate members of Congress and more importantly the level of work that would be needed to not only build support for an inclusive ENDA, but also to keep that support.
The introduction of an inclusive ENDA occurred for the first time this year while an LGB ENDA had been in play in one form or another for three decades. To expect that a bill with such a major addition as gender identity would not face challenges and require lots of hard work to is/was not realistic. In passing ENDA and other legislation needed to ensure our full equality its critical that we see things as they are and not as we wish them to be.
We should have been more aggressive in mounting a serious multi-faceted campaign to shore up support for an inclusive ENDA. That is something that I have written about a number of times including here and here. We spend too much time focused on mindless distractions like Chris Crocker and wondering who's gay and who's not to do the grinding and unglamorous work building grassroots support for federal legislation.
Now is not the time to cave in to political pressures or the need to get things done. As reported by Pam Spaulding, former HRC president Elizabeth Birch has suggested "rather than pushing ENDA off the cliff in this heated moment, to have a cooling off period, not move on it and work to gain solid support from these waffling Dems rather than create a fractured mess to clean up." I agree wholeheartedly.
Now is not the time to turn our energies and anger on one another its time to build the support in Congress for what we all want: an ENDA that protects all members of the LGBT community.
As Florida activist Nadine Smith says in her post here at the Project called A Moment of Truth,
Like every minority group that has fought for basic rights, we will never win by the votes of our community alone. What we do have is the moral authority to call out to America to live up its ideals. We have the ability to call on our leaders and our fellow citizens to treat everyone equally under the law, to reject bigotry, prejudice and the discrimination and violence they breed.
To cut out, to throw out protection regardless of gender identity/expression is to cede that moral authority. It is to confirm for our political enemies that a dividing line within the human family is acceptable--the haggling about who is worthy and who is not is all that remains.This is not the time to do the bigots' work for them. To make excuses. To call fear pragmatism.
Here is what we need:
Every organization and every individual who shares a commitment to equality to speak in a single voice with the clarity of disability activist Bob Williams: We are in this together. We will leave no one behind.
Cross posted at Bloggernista