Matt Foreman

We are frustrated, but it will not stop us

Filed By Matt Foreman | November 07, 2007 8:15 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Congress, ENDA, NGLTF, trans, transgender, United ENDA

Following six weeks of rancorous debate, the House of Representatives voted today on a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that does not include protections on the basis of gender identity. It passed by a vote of 235 to 184.

When confronted with the possibility of Congress moving forward with a bill that stripped out protections for transgender people, the activist and grassroots backbone of our movement responded almost instantaneously in unprecedented numbers with conviction, passion and political savvy. We are frustrated with this course of action, but it will not stop us from pressing forward toward our ultimate goal: nondiscrimination protections for everyone in our community.

When congressional leadership announced late last month that it planned to advance a version of ENDA that only contained protections on the basis of sexual orientation to the House floor, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., took a leading role in moving to block that strategy and move forward on the fully inclusive bill. A coalition called United ENDA was created with more than 360 national, state and local organizations joining the struggle.

We are deeply disappointed that House leadership decided to ignore the position of a vast majority of LGBT organizations, ignore the legal assessment that this bill may not even provide adequate protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and ignore the fact that this vote might make it more difficult to persuade members of Congress to support a fully inclusive bill in the future. We are also disappointed that House leadership forced many members of its own caucus to choose between voting for a bill not supported by most in the LGBT community, or voting against a civil rights bill. This entire process has been painful, divisive and unnecessary. And worst of all, we went through all of this on behalf of a bill that the president has already said he would veto.

The past six weeks have been among the most difficult and challenging our community has ever faced. When confronted with the possibility of Congress moving forward on a bill that stripped out protections for transgender people, the activist and grassroots backbone of our movement responded almost instantaneously in unprecedented numbers with conviction, passion and political savvy. United ENDA — a broad coalition of more than 360 national, statewide and local LGBT organizations, community centers and health clinics — fueled the effort. All of this has shaken the long-established order to its core and things will never be the same. While we are frustrated with the course of action that has been taken so far, we will not stop pressing forward toward our ultimate goal: nondiscrimination protections for everyone in our community.

We are relieved this episode is behind us, and starting right now we are going to pick up where we were six weeks ago — namely, working to pass into law in 2009 the ENDA our entire community wants and deserves.

We also applaud our champions in Congress who courageously fought in committee, in their caucus and on the floor to guarantee protections for all LGBT individuals. Many members of Congress took significant risks to buck their leadership and speak out in favor of an inclusive bill. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) fought to bring an amendment to the floor to add gender identity protections. Reps. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) voted against the non-inclusive bill in the House Education and Labor Committee. Seven members voted against the bill on the floor today on the principle that the bill should have provided protections on the basis of gender identity: Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Rush Holt (D-N.J.), Michael Michaud (D-Maine), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). The LGBT community will be forever grateful for their passionate support.


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Matt - I enjoyed working with you and Tim Sweeney during your ESPA days, when I was a baby politico in NYC, and I've deeply appreciated your leadership on this issue in recent days. And largely for the same reasons, for that matter. Kudos to you on a principled and smart stand - and, in my book, the most strategically sound one in the long run.

[And all these nice words are from a former HRC staffer to boot (who's still finding damn equality logo stickers in random places around the house, seven years later...)]

PS - Anyone know who we have to thank for all those New Yorkers?

I think we have to thank history.

Just read Gay City News from 2002. Who was it who said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce"?

New York Democrats know where exclusion and "incrementalism" leads. It leads nowhere.

Maybe those NY Congresscritters has an example of integrity to follow. Someone who worked his ... fundament ... off to get SONDA passed, only to see his personal commitments to later T inclusivity broken by others. Someone who admitted that he was wrong at the time, and did what he could to make sure the error wasn't repeated.

Matt somebody I think. Starts with F.

We’ve lost the battle for the real ENDA. Whether or not Bush keeps his veto promise and whatever the outcome of the wheeling and dealing by those clowns in Congress, this much is clear; we desperately need civil rights protections with real teeth to defend ourselves from bigots on the job, in housing, healthcare, marriage rights, etc.

According to Lambda Legal if these protections don’t include gender identity they won’t have the legal weight to win in the courts and commissions. Those bodies are overwhelmingly biased on the side of employers, businesses and bigots. Going up against them without the necessary tools is a wasted effort. Then Democrat version of ENDA won't fly in the courts or the commissions. It's toothless.

That’s why, fifty odd years after the passage of the various Civil Rights Acts that ‘outlawed’ racist discrimination, bigotry and bias still produce widespread poverty, housing and job discrimination and why lethal racist travesties like Katrina are the norm, not the exception.
When the Democrats made their closed door decision to strip ENDA and offer their bigot/boss friendly version their only concern was their grubby quest for money from bosses, bigots and lobbyists. We were not part of the equation and they threw all of us, not just transsexuals under the bus. No one will ever forget that, in spite of the spin doctors, apologists and quislings. Nor will we forget that they traded us, once again, as they did with DOMA and DADT, for money and to pander to bigots.

WITH DEMOCRATS LIKE THESE, WHO NEEDS REPUBLICANS?

What was true when the first American Revolution birthed our nation is true today; listen to what Sam Adams had to say on the subject of politicians who’d sell out for a few dollars or a few votes:

”IF ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace.

We seek not your counsel, nor your arms.

Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” Samuel Adams, Boston, 1777

In 1820, discussing the future of the Union and slavery, Thomas Jefferson said “"… this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror."

The treachery of the Democrats is our fire bell.
It’s a clear warning, we have no choice but to move on and build a political voice independent of the Republicans and Democrats. It’s time to defiantly step out of the last closet, dependence on our enemies in the Democratic and Republican parties.

Our battle for equality is compulsory. Once we stop spinning our wheels in the cage the Democrats and Republicans have set aside for us and create our own political identity, cultivate friends and allies and begin to fight in our own name then we’ll have every prospect of winning. We can do that in the union led US Labor Party.
If we lose who knows what kind of final solution Pat Robertson and Rupert Murdoch will impose, but it’s won’t be pretty.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 7, 2007 11:50 PM

Thanks, Matt, for articulating part of the feelings I'm having tonight. I am really pissed off that, after all these years of work, what should've been an experience of great joy has been reduced to frustration and bitter anger toward so many.

It's not disappointment, though, and that makes it all the worse as disappointment would've required that I had expected better.

Sadly, from too long in the trenches with these untrustworthy ones, I've learned to expect that their choices will tend to be the wrong ones -- although I have to admit that the breadth and depth of the backstabbing and double-dealing in this fight has taken it to new heights.

But, putting one foot in front of the other ...

I want to send a personal thank you to Matt and the Taskforce for their amazing leadership for our entire community on this and so many other issues!

If only all of our national organizations could be so inclusive and truly representative of our ENTIRE community....

The treachery of the Democrats is our fire bell. It’s a clear warning, we have no choice but to move on and build a political voice independent of the Republicans and Democrats. It’s time to defiantly step out of the last closet, dependence on our enemies in the Democratic and Republican parties.

Amen to that, Bill.

Should we be happy that ENDA (in any form) has passed the House? Sure.

Do I feel betrayed? Utterly.

Do I ever think that Gender Identity will be brought up for a vote on the floor on its own? Not a chance. It'll be shot down in committee every time.

The Trans community is fantastic at one thing – we are a fantastic scapegoat. We give many people that 'icky' feeling that brings people to the polls.

If by some far flung chance, ENDA succeeds and the President does not Veto it, it is because the 'icky' ones were left behind.

If it fails, it is because we had the temerity to demand to be included. We are uppity.

'Dude in a dress' is an effective rallying cry. Nothing scares people more than someone they dislike urinating in a locked stall. The Freshmen Representatives were afraid of this rallying cry so, rather than vote for what is right they decided to hide.

They deemed their job security more precious than ours.

Should we be happy that ENDA (in any form) has passed the House? Sure.

Do I feel betrayed? Utterly.

Do I ever think that Gender Identity will be brought up for a vote on the floor on its own? Not a chance. It'll be shot down in committee every time.

The Trans community is fantastic at one thing – we are a fantastic scapegoat. We give many people that 'icky' feeling that brings people to the polls.

If by some far flung chance, ENDA succeeds and the President does not Veto it, it is because the 'icky' ones were left behind.

If it fails, it is because we had the temerity to demand to be included. We are uppity.

'Dude in a dress' is an effective rallying cry. Nothing scares people more than someone they dislike urinating in a locked stall. The Freshmen Representatives were afraid of this rallying cry so, rather than vote for what is right they decided to hide.

They deemed their job security more precious than ours.