Marti Abernathey

Starting From Scratch:The Death of United ENDA Part II

Filed By Marti Abernathey | April 25, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, United ENDA

In March I said:

Essentially it's business as usual for HRC. Nothing has substantially changed in their lobbying efforts. They've had no "'rehabilitative"' moment or change of heart. If you take Keisling's words to heart, the only other conclusion that seems logical is that United ENDA is dead.

Recently Matt Foreman said:

'Congress is a creature of history,' Foreman said. 'If lightning strikes and it passes the Senate, it will more than likely be the broken ENDA that is introduced next year because it will have passed both houses. That was the tragedy of the broken ENDA passing the House in the first place.'

Even if the Frank version of ENDA does not go into 2009 with the wind at its back, Foreman is not 100 percent confident that the situation can be righted. Asked whether HRC and the 300-plus dissident groups have come to a meeting of the minds, he said flatly, 'No. Not that I'm aware of.''

If you take these words to heart, the future for a fully inclusive LGBT Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is bleak. With that in mind, some really tough questions need to be asked and debated. Will organizations like the Equality Federation, National Black Justice Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Stonewall Democrats, BiNet USA, COLAGE, DignityUSA, Freedom to Marry, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, GLSEN, Lambda Legal, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Pride At Work, Empire State Pride Agenda, Equal Rights Colorado, Equal Rights Washington, Equality Advocates Pennsylvania, Equality Alabama, Equality Arizona, Equality California, Equality Florida, Equality Illinois, Equality Maine, Equality Maryland, Equality New Mexico, Equality North Carolina, Equality Ohio, Equality South Dakota, Equality Texas, Equality Utah, Equality Virginia, Fair Wisconsin, Indiana Equality, Indiana Fairness Alliance, Michigan Equality, Triangle Foundation, or Wyoming Equality stand AGAINST a bill that will surely pass both houses and be signed by the president? Should they be expected to?

The fight for an inclusive ENDA in October and November of 2007 had a lot of support in the community because most people realized that this the bill would never make it to the president's desk. Will these organizations stand firm in their commitment, even though gays and lesbians will be denied protections? Will gays and lesbian communities support opposing workplace protections until gender identity is included?

I ask these questions because I see on the horizon a brewing battle that could look something like Sherman's scorched earth policy during the Civil War. There is a potential for the coming storm to rip through the community and cause irreparable damage. I hope that this is talked about long before it happens (unlike the removal of gender identity from ENDA).

For myself, I plan on moving towards allies that are more focused on gender equality and away from GLB organizations. I'll still fight for marriage equality with these organizations (and as a member of some of them), but I believe that our most natural allies lie more with social justice organizations who are fighting for gender equality.

Many people in the transgender community are making great strides in political and business circles. With the death of an inclusive ENDA (and with it United ENDA), it would be perfect time to retool, reevaluate, and refocus our direction and our movement.


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Buster Smith | April 25, 2008 4:11 PM

Marti-

I won't speak for the Equality Federation, but it's my recollection that they did take the position of absolutely opposing any non-inclusive measure.

On top of that I would like to remind you and anyone else who sees this post that it is the organizations that make up the Equality Federation who have been passing fully inclusive non-discrimination policies all over the place for decades.

If you go through the list of the 104 jurisdictions that have passed fully inclusive protections you will find an Equality Federation member at the center of each and every one of those battles.

As a transgender person who works for an organization that is a member of the Equality Federation, it's appalling to me that you would encourage trans folk to disengage from these battles. At a time when there are more local and state laws being passed than ever before we NEED more trans people engaged on every level.

I too am frustrated and dismayed with what has and continues to happen around ENDA. But honestly, there is so much more work to be done on a local and state level. Work that will create impactful and immediate change.

I'm over the banter around national groups. It's constantly overshadowing the important work that needs to be done and is getting done by statewide groups. It's time for everyone to get over it and turn to your statewide organization who is probably at this moment working on statewide bill or a local ordinance.

On top of that I would like to remind you and anyone else who sees this post that it is the organizations that make up the Equality Federation who have been passing fully inclusive non-discrimination policies all over the place for decades.

Not all organizations within the Equality Federation are passing fully inclusive protections or are even trans positive. One example would be Forum For Equality. They are supporting a anti-bullying bill that ISN'T transinclusive.

As a transgender person who works for an organization that is a member of the Equality Federation, it's appalling to me that you would encourage trans folk to disengage from these battles. At a time when there are more local and state laws being passed than ever before we NEED more trans people engaged on every level.

I NEVER said that. I never said we should disengage at all. What I said was that we should find other allies that are more in line with our issues. There are other social justice organizations that have always supported us and are our natural allies in the fight for gender equality.

I too am frustrated and dismayed with what has and continues to happen around ENDA. But honestly, there is so much more work to be done on a local and state level. Work that will create impactful and immediate change.

I'm not asking people to disengage. I'm asking that they think about who they work with in attaining our rights. One of the things that frustrate me most is when someone flies of the handle and doesn't READ my post.

I'm over the banter around national groups. It's constantly overshadowing the important work that needs to be done and is getting done by statewide groups. It's time for everyone to get over it and turn to your statewide organization who is probably at this moment working on statewide bill or a local ordinance.

I'm not sure where you are located, but the majority of people in Indiana will probably not be covered in employment discrimination unless it's done nationally. That's isn't to say that people aren't trying, it's just a different culture here. The national legislation is vital for people in areas like Indiana. Local ordinances are great, but like the HRO here in Indianapolis, they represent great strides...but in reality do very little to punish someone who violates the ordinance even if they are found to be guilty of said discrimination.

The reality, as described by Matt Foreman, is that gender identity is not going to be included in ENDA when it passes in 2009. I'll ask you again, will the Equality Federation DENY gays and lesbians rights, because transgender people are excluded. I hope they do, but that is a HUGE pill to swallow.

Most of these organizations have pledged to only support a fully inclusive ENDA. But you're right, they didn't pledge to kill a viable non-inclusive ENDA. So what happens now that a renegade organization is preventing an inclusive version from moving forward and trying to secure a broken version?

I know that the organizations I'm a part of will denounce the move, will ask our representatives not to do it, and will send an action alert getting our members to contact representatives. But we saw last fall that that isn't enough. Nothing short of a coordinated campaign will stop the HRC, and I don't know if even the equality federation is committed enough to do that.

For what it's worth, I think our organizations should fight it. This is legislation that directly harms trans and gender variant people. And we should fight it just like we'd fight a DOMA. But somehow I fear everyone's going to just cop out an excuse that they deal with state politics and not federal or something like that.

A.G. Casebeer | April 26, 2008 1:42 PM

It is right and appropriate for transpeople to work with their local GLBT organizations. I sit on the endorsement board of mine, and spent a lot of time this spring dealing with the state legislature - and we did pretty well this year.

But, as T people, we cannot allow an ENDA that doesn't include us, to pass, federally. We simply can't. It would be a disaster. There are too few of us, we have far too little money, and way too many misconceptions to overcome, for us to have a snowball's chance of passing a law on our own. Letting such a bill become law would mean that employers would have open season on T people. Already, T people have heard the refrain that "HRC and Barney Frank won't even support your rights - why should we?" Between the perception of being left behind, and what the religious wrong does to us, it would be decades - and the remembering our dead list gets longer and longer, good people placed in bad positions because of economic prejudice.

I'm not sure how solid the United ENDA coalition really is. I know my local organization has been committed to including the T (and has a number of T people in its leadership) for 10 years now, and is committed to being a part of the coalition, for what good a local/state group can do as part of it. And there's the rub: state and local orgs do state and local work, and don't have DC offices or clout there - we can talk to Members of Congress at home - and that's what we did last October. But most are short of money, too. Ours is not in bad shape, but we don't have an HRC steering committee anywhere near us to suck the money to DC. These HRC galas take the money away from your town, and rarely does it return - another beef I have with HRC.

There is no doubt that, as a community, we need to get more people involved in other, larger, rights organizations as a weight against HRC - NOW and ACLU have certainly been supportive in the past. The key here is the Task Force, and we'll have to see who replaces Matt Foreman, permanently. He certainly far exceeded any expectation I ever had for him. I hope his permanent successor is as good.

Marti asks a very sensible question. If Obama or Clinton are president in 2009, the chances that they'll be handed a non-inclusive ENDA to sign will be very high if it passes the Senate this time around.

A.G. Casebeer | April 27, 2008 2:32 PM

Yes, Bil, and I have little doubt that either Obama or Clinton will sign whatever version of ENDA that lands on their desk - we cannot expect either to veto an ENDA because it doesn't include T. Neither one would say "not until T is included." I doubt either would even mention the omission.

I agree with Marti's warning that the battle will cause something akin to Sherman's scorched earth march, that it may well pit some GL against some T, and I wonder also how many of the state/local groups will want to even be symbolically involved. Last year, nearly everyone knew that Bush wasn't signing ENDA. Next year, presumably with a Democrat in the White House, is a very different matter. I would hope that it would not become necessary for such a battle to erupt. But Barney Frank holds the keys, can stop bills in his banking committee, and HRC will use their army of lobbyists and the threats of downrating Congressmen to make sure it passes Frank's way. It may be the only strategy T people have to gain inclusion, and it would be a very long shot. It greatly worries me, because we do have an element in the T community that is capable of going over the edge and not showing the best judgment. On the other hand, when in a fight, it is unwise to ever say what you won't do to win a battle. And, quite frankly, T people really need ENDA very badly. The ROD list is peppered with T people who died because unemployment caused by transphobia forced them into the sex trades, drove them to suicide, or rendered them homeless and alone.

I hope it doesn't come to that. I hope that T is fully included in ENDA and the GLBT community rallies to support that inclusion, and a T inclusive ENDA bill passes and is signed into law. We're not far off - frankly, had HRC used the threat of downrating Congressmen to push 2015
last year, instead of the opposite, I have no doubt 2015 would have passed the House - and I have that directly from the mouth of a presently sitting Congressman, who also told me that there was no whip count that he was ever aware of. But the behavior of HRC and Barney Frank serves to convince me that the fix is already in, for whatever stupid reason. They're making a colossal mistake of what could be cataclysmic proportions. I'm reminded of the words of the Russian Premier to the irrational American President, over the hotline, after a nuke was detonated in Denver, in Tom Clancy's "Sum of All Fears" - "will it all be a mistake?"