It is 5 minutes to midnight on ENDA, with still a possibility of getting a vote this year if everyone pulls together, and what happens? Do we have LGBT and progressive media exploding with articles of protest and telling people how to lobby Congress effectively to get this moving?
Nope. Instead, a NY marriage vote that was known to be doomed sucks all the oxygen out of the room. The D.C. city council preliminary vote on marriage and a possible marriage vote in NJ are also in the news. But unlike most mornings when I crank up my Google machine, there are no news articles this morning on ENDA, anywhere. This despite the fact that the Committee that's supposed to mark it up announced yesterday that it's not on the schedule next week, which means that it's probably going in the deep freeze until February unless a miracle happens. As I've explained ad nauseam in previous posts, that is going to make ENDA harder to achieve.
Let me first say -- get on the phone and call the House Committee to help get ENDA moving again. It ain't over till its over, and you have to be in it to win it. Okay, now that you've all done that, let's drop the happy crap, and examine what happened to ENDA in 2009 to bring us from the assumptions of invulnerability surrounding its re-introduction, to today, when we are staring at its imminent placement in the deep freeze. This will help the LGBT and progressive communities realize how much more effort is really needed to pass ENDA.
I am pleased to say that I have been invited to discuss ENDA on the Michelangelo Signorile radio show on Sirius-XM this afternoon at 4:30 ET. I am not pleased to say that many more such discussions should have been out there months ago on many radio shows and websites and newspapers in the LGBT and progressive communities.
"We are on track to pass this bill in the House this year," said Representative Barney Frank on the day of ENDA's introduction, June 24, 2009. He also said that a hearing would take place in July. However, he also said that "obstacles still exist and LGBT activists need to continue to step up their lobbying for the bill."
Did LGBT activists and media step up their lobbying for the bill? I think some activists did, but I think that both activists and the media largely dropped the ball.
Relative to the volume of efforts and news on other issues, such as marriage equality, Don't Ask Don't Tell and DOMA, ENDA was almost completely drowned out. I have been tracking the news every day since June, when ENDA was re-introduced, and what I have seen is massive coverage of DADT and DOMA and little coverage of ENDA.
The reason that I dropped everything to start posting obsessively every day on ENDA is because I saw how low it was on the list of priorities, and given my expertise in workplace discrimination issues, I feel passionate about it. Let me tell you, entering the political fray is not that pleasant an experience. While many people were encouraging, there were also many who disparaged my efforts. I do, however, have a fairly thick hide and a poor memory, and both are important in politics.
Here's the news coverage on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act from 2007 to today. It was high in 2007, but then dropped precipitously from December 2007 and remained at a low level ever since. Of course, these are all news articles as measured by Google, and not just LGBT and progressive media, but it gives a sense of where things are.
Would we be in a different place today with ENDA if the media had written more articles about ENDA? The social scientist in me rebels at reaching such a rash conclusion. It may be that the larger LGBT and progressive communities aren't all that interested in ENDA, and the media follows the interests of its audiences. But whether the media soft-pedaled it, or the community was lukewarm, either explanation requires action in order for ENDA to pass in 2010.
While the House has the votes, the Senate does not, and the situation in the Senate is likely to get worse, rather than better, as time goes on. But one cannot create community, media and political interest by simply willing it. I believe that among the reasons for this lack of interest is the fact that those who are our leaders are drawn largely from the class of people who are not experiencing a high degree of job discrimination. I have read several comments made on gay media websites, as well as similar comments made to my face in person, to the effect that "my job is secure, so I don't have much interest in ENDA."
I do not know what will be required to change the focus to move ENDA forward. I do not know what will bring us together as a community on this issue. But I do suggest that failure to change focus and come together as a community will bring us more disappointments in the future.