Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Rep. Polis Endorses Omnibus LGBT Rights Bill

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 01, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: American Equality Bill, David Mixner, Jared Polis, Juan Ahonen-Jover, omnibus LGBT bill, Tif Fernandez

There have been some calls recently to scrap piecemeal rights bills like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Some have called for adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal Civil Rights Act. Some have suggested a separate federal LGBT rights bill, but an omnibus bill that contains all of the bits and pieces of discrimination that we experience, such as discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and the others areas now covered by civil rights law for race, national origin, sex and religion.

LGBT political and advocacy leaders have long ignored these calls on the grounds that such legislation could never pass because of political objections by large civil rights organizations who fear opening the Civil Rights Act to amendment by conservatives, and because of the pragmatic belief that incremental bills are more likely to pass.

The brick wall of opposition to such proposals cracked last night. Last night, eQuality Giving held the last of a series of panels in its "virtual convention" for full LGBT legal equality. Representative Jared Polis of Colorado said that he supported the idea of an omnibus LGBT rights bill, and called for suggestions about what the bill should contain.

This is the first time a national-level gay politician has said this. (I note that Senator Gillibrand last year said she would support amending the Civil Rights Act.) It would completely change the face of LGBT political advocacy, because demanding a comprehensive series of rights requires a totally different strategy from begging for a single right to employment filled with exceptions. Our advocacy would have to completely shift gears. Oh wait, it's April Fools' Day! But he said it yesterday, so I think he's serious.

Rep. Polis said that an an omnibus bill could be a major rallying point for all of our community, especially since ENDA and other LGBT rights legislation isn't winnable now anyway. He said he would look to include most, if not all, of the concerns already addressed in legislation, and to include new ideas not yet addressed. He noted that the Civil Rights Act granted rights across the board. Incremental progress is also possible, but it is important to talk about what success looks like. He said "it looks like treating gay and lesbian Americans like every other American."

Rep. Polis, you've got to bone up on our community. Our community is more than "gay and lesbian Americans." Let me not get too testy here, but I reserve my right to yell and scream about this later.

He was asked about a marriage component to the bill. He said that no specific decisions have been made yet, but noted that the definition of marriage is up to the states and that there is "no federal definition of marriage." He said that a federal definition of marriage would require a Constitutional amendment, and he doesn't plan to be offering a Constitutional amendment. You can hear the whole panel here (Polis's discussion on the omnibus bill begins at about 7:00.)

I beg to differ on that last point, because even if he is technically right that there's no federal "definition" that defines it for the purpose of an individual state, there is the little matter of a federal law defining marriage for purposes of federal law as not including same-sex marriages, and permitting states to ignore legal same-sex marriages. Maybe you don't call that a "definition," but you can hardly ignore it in discussing the federal role in marriage definitions.

Okay, so the talking points need a bit of work. But the idea of an omnibus bill appeals to me, as I've discussed before, because the whole idea of whittling down Bella Abzug's and Ed Koch's original legislation, to include gays in the federal Civil Rights Act, was that incremental progress would move much faster. I'm sorry, but the "incremental progress" method has been a dismal failure. It's simply encouraged our enemies to ask for more and more of the loaf, and weak-kneed Congressmembers have used this to emphasize the political vunerability that our own position signalled. We've discussed this on Bilerico many times, with discussions from David Mixner, Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover, and Tif Fernandez.

More on various versions of an omnibus LGBT rights bill can be found here. These have been drafted by some legal heavyweights, and they're worth serious consideration.

It sounds as if Representative Polis is interested in continuing to pursue the incremental track, while at the same time pushing an omnibus bill. That strategy is new. In the past, the discussion has been an either/or "Incremental Progress" or "Full Equality" argument. I think pursuing both at the same time may be an excellent interim strategy because it uses both the hammer and the pincers, and could give us the traction we've been missing.

Representative Polis is soliciting suggestions on his "Fearless Campaign" website.


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Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | April 1, 2011 5:26 PM

A dual track of ENDA and a more comprehensive bill makes much sense and may yield more results faster, since the comprehensive bill will highlight ALL the areas where LGBT Americans are second class and we can illuminate these wrongs and do more to educate and do "right".

Dr. Weiss I am sure you will disagree with me but I would like to see transsexual needs separated from LGB and transgender needs.While it can be argued the discrimination that is faced by all groups is very real the simple fact remains that it is for very different reasons. That is why I believe the only way to comprehenesively tackle all the needs is through separate legislation. As I have stated numerous times before I do not identify as LGB or transgender so why should I or others insist that I be lumped into these groups for legal protections? There is now also enough posted information out there to argue that there is a proven association with being LGB if you are transgender identified.Also that if you are unwilling to tow the LGBTransgender line you will be told your not welcome in T space and that you should be forced to shut up. Thank you Mara Kiesling and to all the others that have left similar comments that I have saved! That isn't the case with all Transsexuals or crossdressers. I believe that a reasonable case can be made against NCTE, NGLTF and other LGB organizations for their usurping of the word transgender and of changing its definition to the point that anyone potentially identified as being TG even TS is automatically viewed as LGB. While you may wish to claim it hasn't been damaging the fact that conservatives are putting heterosexual TS men and women into their anti gay marriage crosshairs begs to differ. Transsexuals must come out from under the smothering blanket term transgender and separate from the LGB for the good of all of us. Your needs as an LGB identified TS/TG shouldn't outway my needs as a heterosexual TS. The only thing you should expect from me is a willingness to fight for our rights as women who were born TS anything beyond that requires that you should be asking my support not demanding it or acting on your own against my best interests and wishes.

amym440 your comments confuse me just a bit. I am already protected under the civil rights act since it specifically cites sex. Are you somehow excluded and therefore seeking some sort of additional protections?

I am already protected under the civil rights act since it specifically cites sex.

Are you really? I don't want to get to deeply into this but there is a lot confusion over this. The whole problem with "self identity" feeds the confusion. Where the law is concerned the question is how the law identifies you, not how you identify yourself. One thing I certainly don't identify as is "a transexual". I identify as me. I have had surgery. That is very significant. It imposes the clearest sort of limitations on how I am able to perform sexually. In that sense I have had a sex change, pure and simple. I did not have a sex change to become "a transsexual".

Sex classification is binary. Probably, that should change. There is little accuracy involved because sex is not a clear dichotomy for as many as four percent of the population and at least one percent. It is well documented and always overlooked in these political discussions. Genital to genital sex performativity, however, is dichotomous. Since there are only two sex classifications the way society is structured, post operative transsexual people should be classified the same way every other person is at birth, except those who are intersex and born with ambiguous genitalia.

There isn't much question in my mind that sex classification has to be adjusted to accommodate concrete reality rather than binary abstractions. I don't see why transsexual people have to be held hostage to this, however. Statements coming out of NCTE about how not even post op transsexual people can feel secure about their marriages is pure exploitation, as far as I am concerned. Whether Nikki Araguz is heterosexual, bi, polyamorous or whatever stupid label one would throw out there the fact is that she is female needs to be accepted without question.

I didn't mean to derail this thread. I haven't really even read the post. ENDA is the subject, however. It doesn't take a whole lot of logic to understand how people of transsexual history are dragged into this behind an aegis they don't belong behind. I do find it kind of exploitative the way the legal ambiguity involving the status of people of transsexual history is being used to impress upon us the need to secure rights as transgender people. It isn't right. Either change the whole sex classification system for everyone without binaries, trinaries, etc., etc., etc. or work to secure the appropriate legal binary sex identifications for people of transsexual history if you want us to join the fight for the rights of everyone.

Edith I agree with everthing you said and as usual you said it gracefully. I hope you understand that I am not trying to hang the transsexual label on post-ops.What I am saying is that pre-ops and post-ops are being taking for an unnecesary and unwanted ride by those who are pushing the term transgender. I believe that there is a legitimate case that can be brought against these organizations for damages by those who have a gid history. I hope they wake up and smell the coffee before this happens and put out the necesary retractions to clean up the mess they have made and are continuing to make.I feel that I have been damaged in two ways 1) in all the ways they have marginalized pre-ops and post-ops 2) The forced automatic assumption that I am associated with the LGB instead of allowing me to be an outside allie.

Oh, Amy,

I wouldn't want to bring action against anyone. This is a tricky issue. Inevitably there will be those who will try to bring every kind of irrelevant consideration into the picture to distort the situation - class, "assimilationism", "separatism", etc. Absentee Thoughtlord clarified the situation on Pam's House Blend during the Autumn/Ashley flare up. http://www.pamshouseblend.com/diary/18414/glaad-media-guide-reform-its-time
I don't think the person going under that user name is even from a transsexual background. It is just so obvious, what the situation is that you have to be in complete and utter denial not to see it.

Personally, Amy, I believe there are enormous problems with being thought of as someone with a "gid" history, unless the "d" stands for dysphoria and I have problems with the way dysphoria is generally conceived, also. That is a discussion for another time and place, however.

I don't want to go too far off course. I don't quite understand what Dr. Weiss has brought up here. I am not sure how an employee non discrimination act would differ from a revision of the civil rights act. Seems an important question. When I travel with my spouse accommodations are a concern. It doesn't seem to be a problem that affects you but same sex discrimination does affect me whether anyone is willing to take my situation seriously or not. It's very difficult for me to ignore this topic for so many different reasons. I am concerned with being defined as female and very concerned about a binary world where being defined as anything less would put me in a situation where someone could justify putting me in a situation where I would be defined as male.

I should drop it here, though. I do not have the political insight to discuss what the main focus of this thread is about. The question of TitleVII protections was brought up in response to what you wrote. That's what I was reacting to. I am sincere in what I said about how confusion regarding that particular situation is misused.

Edith thank you for the link to Pams. I understand that you are in a tough position and I support same sex marriage. The simple fact is that marriages of heterosexual women of transsexual history are being more and more compared to same sex marriage by the right and LGBT groups. I wish that I could agree with you that this shouldn't go to court and I understand your fears about it. I really wish they would choose to take the steps to undo the mess they are creating. One of the main reasons I believe it needs to go to court and can win in court is their mistaken belief that they have the superior numbers or that a court of law would even care if they do given their negligent behavior. I am really tempted to go after LGBT organizations and conservatives in the same case. It would be interesting to see how both groups reacted to be named in the same case as defendents.That might do a lot to help alleviate the class and assimilation arguments.Also if we won and I do believe we would it would put us off limits as polical cannon fodder for both sides.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | April 2, 2011 4:41 AM

This is no time to be timid, exclusionary or divisive. Our experience over the last two decades is that Democrats and Republicans do not want us to have guaranteed rights.

That means we're in for a hard fight and we need a strategy that embraces the broadest, most comprehensive, inclusionary law possible; one that's eminently reasonable to attract large numbers of working people.

To encourage large scale support I think it needs to be introduced as a constitutional amendment criminalizing discrimination against ourselves, women, people of color and imported and immigrant people and workers trying to form trade unions.

It should cover employment, working conditions, housing, union organizing, reproductive rights and reinforce and create rights for all immigrant and imported workers based on the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. It should guarantee socialized medicine. It should make it easy to sue for damages and win.

The broader it is, the more it imposes draconian penalties on managers, landlords and owners, the greater its appeal will be. The broader it is the more it'll attract and unleash the vast energies created by the new Depression and demonstrated at Madison and in calls for a Labor Party and for general strikes.

If we are going to go for comprehensive civil rights, which is a much better idea than the piecemeal approach of ENDA, perhaps we should insure that we include as many classes not already covered under current federal civil rights laws, as are covered by some of the more progressive state human rights laws.

In addition, if the bill is intended to be comprehensive, then it could include a definition of marriage for federal purposes, repealing DOMA in the process.

It could include a "Gender Recognition Act" - again, for federal purposes, that statutorily codifies the current department of state regulations and applies them to all federal government functions, and which could serve in part as a template for a "Model Gender Recognition Act" or "Uniform Gender Recognition Act" for the various states to consider adopting.

It could also amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to remove the stimatizing exclusions (not that I consider transgender/transsexual/intersex biological differences from the strict arbitrary gender/sex binary expectation to involve disabilities, unless there is an actual associated disability, not solely by virtue of being different). OTOH, to the extent that GID, under whatever name, remains in the DSM, it could be considered a temporary disability for ADA purposes.