Think about it: These days we hear Democrats and Republicans alike constantly talking about jobs, jobs, jobs. But when was the last time you heard President Obama, or any Congressional Democrat for that matter, talk about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), or even just the issue of LGBT workplace rights in general?
There was certainly no shortage of Democrats talking about ENDA during the last presidential election, when Candidate Obama promised to be our fierce advocate, or during the 111th Congress, when Congressman George Miller, then-Chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Education, repeatedly promised but ultimately failed to deliver a vote on the bill. We also saw President Obama address the issue directly in his Pride Month proclamations in both 2009 and 2010.
Over the last few months, however, with the economy still in the crapper, jobs still hard to come by, with LGBT unemployment estimated at around double the national average, and with gays and lesbian workers in 29 states and transgender workers in 35 states still able to be legally fired from their jobs or refused employment altogether for no other reason than just being who we are, the silence from Democrats on LGBT workplace rights, particularly from the Party's leadership, has been nothing short of deafening. Not even newly-appointed DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz could bring herself to address the issue in her own Pride proclamation.
If we can't even count on Democrats to do as little for us as to hold long-promised hearings on ENDA or on civil rights for transgender Americans in the Senate, how can it make sense to believe they'll stand up for us on any other issues of import to our community? Anyone who keeps up with LGBT-relevant news knows full well that the Senate hearing held on repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) yesterday was nothing more than a sham - political theatre intended to garner the support of the wealthy, white gays and lesbians the Democratic Party is seeking to court with next year's election looming ever closer.
Congressman Barney Frank, the lead sponsor of ENDA, told Metro Weekly's Chris Geidner in March, "ENDA will pass before DOMA will be repealed congressionally." In that same interview, Frank also said "I believe that, with regard to DOMA, the goal is to win it in court. I do not think there is a good likelihood of getting DOMA repealed through the Congress. I think there is a good likelihood, in a Democratic Congress, of getting an inclusive ENDA."
In that same interview, Congressman Frank contends that a big part of the problem with getting ENDA passed in the last Congress was the issue of transgender inclusion: "To get ENDA passed, ultimately, we need to do lobbying among people who are supportive of ENDA to be fully supportive of gender [identity]. We have a majority for ENDA, and most of the people who are for ENDA are for an inclusive ENDA, but not all of them. And that's the lobbying job for the whole community. Transgender people, lesbian and gay and bisexual people, our straight friends - the focal point should be to make sure that everyone who's supportive of ENDA supports the transgender inclusion."
Given that Barney Frank is the Democratic Party's go-to guy on LGBT civil rights, his words have to be given some weight here, and therefore, the question must be asked: If Congressman Frank's opinion is to be taken seriously, why is the Senate wasting their time with hearings on repealing DOMA, which has little or no chance of happening anytime soon and is expected to be resolved in the courts rather than in Congress, when that time could be so much more constructively spent focusing on ENDA, transgender inclusion, and the jobs that Democrats tell us are their top priority? The answer, sadly, is pretty obvious: Jobs are the main concern of lower and middle-class LGBT Americans, not the uber-wealthy, the people whose support and donation dollars the Democratic Party's leadership is now actively courting for the upcoming election. Once again, as is so often the case with these people, it's not about justice, equality, keeping promises, or doing the right thing by their base - it's all about money.
It seems that what today's Democratic Party really cares about most is exactly the same thing the Republican Party cares about most: Winning elections and protecting their own power and privilege, not keeping the promises they make to their base in order to win our support and votes at election time. In short, just like the GOP, Democrats talk a good game when they need our help at election time, but refuse to back it up when the chips are down and it's time to turn words into action.
Yes, they can...but no, they apparently won't. If they won't, why should any LGBT American worker who cares about jobs and their basic civil rights support them?