Rebecca Juro

Freedom To...Starve?

Filed By Rebecca Juro | February 09, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Congress, economic policy, ENDA, jobs, marriage

I don't know about you, but I'm long past sick of the elitist tunnelvision of these so-called marriage equality advocates.

America is in the beginnings of a massive recession. Americans are losing their jobs by the millions. LGB and especially Transgender-Americans, often the last hired and first fired even in good times, are hurting and hurting badly economically. An inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is due to be introduced in Congress later this year. And what do we see from our so-called activist elite? This nonsense.

Let's be clear: LGBT Americans, like the rest of the country, need jobs, we need them right now, and a lot of us need those jobs right now a hell of a lot more than we need the ability to file joint tax returns.

Anyone who pays attention to national politics, or even anyone who subscribes to the most basic common-sense American political realities, knows that same-sex marriage is going nowhere federally for a long time at best. Even if all of our realistic wishes in that regard come true and SSM becomes legal in New Jersey, Vermont, and again in California, it will then be legal in just 10% of American states.

Compare that to the potential impact of the passage of a fully inclusive ENDA. With an inclusive ENDA as the law of the land, it would be illegal to discriminate against LGBT Americans in the workplace in all 50 states, not only directly affecting a far greater number of LGBT Americans, but also directly impacting far more basic needs for most of us then the ability to get married.

After all, of what use is the ability to become legally married when you can't afford to clothe, feed, and house yourself and your family? How does the ability to get married help those who can't afford health insurance or even a single prescription or visit to the doctor when they become sick? Obviously, the ability to get legally married is of most value to those who already have nice homes and well-paying jobs, those who don't go to work each day wondering when their own pink slip is coming or those in even more desperate straits, already unemployed and increasingly unable to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families.

Yet here come the Queer elites once again, touting same-sex marriage, potentially generating a renewed surge of religion-based anti-LGBT bigotry at a time we can least afford it, getting the right-wing worked up against us all over again just before the matter of our right to work is due to be taken on in Congress. I mean really, just how selfish and shortsighted can these people be? Have they learned nothing from the last time they tried this? What, 45 states banning same-sex marriage and a nearly-passed Federal Marriage Amendment as a result of their last attempt wasn't enough of a clue, they need to risk our chance to finally be protected from discrimination on the job too?

It makes just about as much sense as when Republicans promote failed Reagan-era theories of massive tax cuts, rather than targeted government spending, as viable economic stimulus. Everyone knows, even if they refuse to admit it, that same-sex marriage is overall a loser issue politically in this country right now and that will probably continue to be the case for decades to come. To promote this proven loser issue and risk riling up the right-wing at a time when what we need most right now is for Congress to be able to muster the political will to protect LGBT workers and their families who depend on their incomes to survive from discrimination is beyond simply irresponsible, it's downright unconscionable.

Isn't it interesting how we don't see this kind of effort and these kinds of online events directed toward getting an inclusive ENDA passed (until we get fed up with the selfishness of the elites and do it ourselves, as with UnitedENDA)? Where are the blogging contests and cash prizes offered for speaking out on LGBT Americans right to work? You won't see them coming from us, of course. Most of us are just too busy saving every dime we can scrounge just to get through the week.

Perhaps if these self-involved Queer elites put 1/10 the effort they do in promoting their (currently) lost cause into something that can make a real difference in people's lives like protecting the right of LGBT Americans to make a living, we'd be better able to advocate for same-sex marriage in the future when it's more politically palatable and when people have more money to donate and more time to give to such a cause. Unfortunately, what we see is these elitists emulating the GOP, continuing to push an issue which is not only guaranteed to fail to draw popular support politically but carries with it the very real risk of diluting hard-won and long-awaited political support for a more basic need of far greater and far more immediate importance to a far larger number of people.

As unfair as it is, no one's going to die because they can't get married. Tragically, the same can't be said of those LGBT's who can't get work or provide basic needs for themselves and their loved ones. It's time these elitists took their heads out of the sand and realized their own narrow and selfish agenda is not what our community or our country needs right now.

There are people dying out here, right now, right in our backyards. LGBT Americans are losing jobs, homes, families, and yes, even lives, to legally-sanctioned hate, discrimination, and bigotry. Real LGBT lives are being lost, real LGBT families are suffering in poverty and homelessness. It's all happening right now and it's been happening for generations. Even more importantly, there's now a real chance of fixing the problem or at least of starting the process of fixing it, hopefully this year.

Lives are quite literally on the line here. We need jobs and we need them now, just like the rest of America's workforce. We need our ability to provide for ourselves and our families protected from discrimination under the law. Most importantly, this is a basic, fundamental need shared by all LGBT Americans, one which we can have a real and lasting positive impact on if we act right now. I'll put those priorities above anyone's joint tax return any day of the week.

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steve tabarez | February 9, 2009 3:27 PM

As an unemployed victim of this economy, it would be really easy to agree wholeheartedly with what you advocate. For all the reasons you state. The populist that I am, and as a fierce advocate for the lesser of this world, I could easily join your refrain. Yet I am not an incrementalist. I abhor this state by state fight for marriage rights, as much as I do the argument that we must somehow choose which right to get behind and say is top priority. Both are short-sighted, and are ultimately the direct result of not being included EXPLICITLY in the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT. That we are not only serves to segment and seperate, to argue and discuss which rights we don't have should take precedence over the other. Whether ENDA, DADT, ADOPTION, MARRIAGE, HOUSING, LENDING, etc., if covered under the Federal CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, we wouldn't have to choose, or argue, or fight. To me,
a targeted approach to that renders increntalism dead.

steve tabarez | February 9, 2009 3:29 PM

As an unemployed victim of this economy, it would be really easy to agree wholeheartedly with what you advocate. For all the reasons you state. The populist that I am, and as a fierce advocate for the lesser of this world, I could easily join your refrain. Yet I am not an incrementalist. I abhor this state by state fight for marriage rights, as much as I do the argument that we must somehow choose which right to get behind and say is top priority. Both are short-sighted, and are ultimately the direct result of not being included EXPLICITLY in the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT. That we are not only serves to segment and seperate, to argue and discuss which rights we don't have should take precedence over the other. Whether ENDA, DADT, ADOPTION, MARRIAGE, HOUSING, LENDING, etc., if covered under the Federal CIVIL RIGHTS ACT, we wouldn't have to choose, or argue, or fight. To me,
a targeted approach to that renders increntalism dead.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | February 9, 2009 3:38 PM

I wonder what would happen if those who don't think that marriage equality is a priority would stop spending so much time and energy criticizing those who do see marriage as a priority and instead focused that energy on advancing the issues they see as more important.

And, despite attempts to paint marriage as an issue of the well to do, the reality is that marriage equality will benefit same-sex couples no matter what the economic status or their race. The rights and responsibilities of marriage will have a huge impact on people's abilities to take of their families.

It may not be an issue that is important to you, but that doesn't mean that it should be a priority for others.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | October 14, 2009 9:16 PM

Mary Bonauto of GLAD, who is one of the heroes of the marriage equality movement, said it best: marriage rights will benefit the most vulnerable in our community, not the wealthiest. parents, low-income couples and others will benefit from marriage equality

michael is correct - can we stop spitting at each other and focus on our personal interests in achieving full equality, there is plenty of work to go around..

So, what's wrong with working on both?

One reason you haven't heard much about a federal ENDA lately is because - up until 3 weeks ago - there was exactly NO chance of getting it passed. But, during the eight years when the Du(m)bya would've vetoed ENDA (and that's IF it could even get through Congress), the "activist elite" (who?) you condemn were passing state and local nondiscrimination laws. Those now protect more than half of all Americans from sexual orientation discrimination and nearly 40% from discrimination based on gender identity/expression.

Plus, you're linking to Freedom to Marry, an organization whose entire cause is same-sex marriage. That's like yelling at GLSEN because they focus all their efforts on schools. Or SLDN for focusing on the military. What about the rest of us, GLSEN and SLDN??? Huh?!?

More than that, what about a little civility and respect for folks who've done an awful lot of heavy lifting over the years? You can disagree with tactics without calling people names and denigrating their work. I mean, I even agree with your basic point: ENDA should be top priority right now. But your attacks and tone really just lack respect and smack of dilettantism.

We just filed our taxes yesterday. Because we don't have marriage equality and the benefits of government recognized kinship that derive from it, we paid an additional $6300.00 in Federal income tax this year. For us thats about seven weeks of take home pay.

We are in our 19th year together. We are working people, we've raised a child, helped pay for her higher education, helped support our granchildren's needs, all while being denied the tax breaks and credits that are supposed to help working families care for themselves.

Every year we've paid a tax penalty for being a same sex family and each time it makes me ill with rage. Last year I started to add up how much this discrimination has forced us to pay over time. Reckoned conservatively,we have paid well above $100,000.00 in excess federal taxes alone because of status filing discrimination. So yes, its a pretty important issue for this family! I see it as a form of economic sanctions against homosexuality.

I used to wonder why we weren't getting ahead, despite a decent paying job, with long hours and overtime. I blamed myself, when in reality I'm actually very disciplined with our money and budget. In a perverse way, it was liberating to realize how big this tax discrimination is and how it has impacted us. It helps explain why we haven't been able to save more for a down payment, put away savings for our elder years, ever own a car that was less than 10 years old when we bought it, ever be able to buy a computer or appliance that wasn't used. Why its been a struggle to try and live without relying on credit.

If we weren't having to pay that extra $6300 in taxes this year I'd put most of it in savings, because who knows about anyone's job security these days. I'd use the rest to get help for my 4th grade age grandson who has learning differences and school difficulties. He needs a good assessment and tutoring to help him catch up before he gives up, we're not gonna let that happen!

Wilow, I sympathize. No one should be treated unfairly. At the same time I also believe that right now, given it's impending debate in Congress as well as the current economy and it's impact, ENDA is the more urgent issue. I don't believe it's unreasonable to place it ahead of marriage, especially with lives literally on the line here.

My sympathy towards you is tempered by the fact that $6300 is more than my partner and I take home *in a year* from all sources. Most of my trans woman friends are dead...street work from not having a job killed them.

So, gay marriage seems to me a rareified pursuit of economically privileged folks like yourself.

And, while gay marriage may help you get a larger share of the good life, I have to look at how transfolks are faring in the US today, and dismiss gay marriage as a pie in the sky affair to help folks like you buy that extra slice of economic privilege that is beyond so many transfolks ability to even conceive, let alone possess.

That said, for me, life is good. I am warm, I have access to food, and potable water, and I am loved. My heart goes out to you and your difficulty in being unable to secure a deduction that is greater than my family's annual income. The blow to your sense of entitlement must be very traumatic.

FWIW, you have my sympathy, if not my comprehension.

Angela Brightfeather | February 9, 2009 4:58 PM


Your absolutely right, but it falls on deaf ears. As long as HRC and a few others are driving the boat, it won't be heading in the direction of people's needs as much as it will to where the money is and lets face it, you can't get money out of a rock or any GLBT person who is trying to just make it to the next day and is out of work.

As every day goes by, the only sad hope is that enough people will have to be hurt or ruined and families will suffer enough that some people will wake up and understand why others have no choice any longer than to picket their expensive dinner parties and stand outside their DC headquarters with signs that mirror their unfairness and irresponsibility to recognize the tremendous loss of life and livlihood that ENDA now represents.

SSM is the cash cow that is being used the same way that they used murdered GLBT people to draw attention to the need for a hate crimes act, that is still waiting in the wings and ha been put on the shelf for SSM.

Our last hope right now is that our President has enough vision to be able to look past the greedy and consider the needy instead.

Last point. You are so right to emphasize that ENDA is a matter of life and death. We have to keep on carrying that message to everyone until they understand it.

Agreed Angela. That's really the issue here. People's lives hang in the balance here and in my opinion that trumps pretty much everything else.

Bill Vayens | February 9, 2009 5:22 PM

I'm sorry that your myopic view of life does not allow you to deal with more than one issue at a time. Don't however suggest that the rest of us should abandon other issues that are just as important to us.

I can assure you that the benefits that would accrue from having federal marriage equality are not simply trivial items just as the ability to file joint tax returns.

I would welcome the chance to qualify for the federal health benefits that my 25 year relationship with my retired Army partner should give to me. I would enjoy not having to spend considerable sums of my to my attorney (as much as I love him) on the reams of paperwork that are required to provide the two of us with protections that should automatically be ours.

And while I probably won't see marriage equality in the state of Florida in my lifetime, I don't believe it's an unrealistic expectation given the current climate in Washington. Otherwise what did I spend the last couple of years fighting for? (See, I am able to support multiple causes at the same time.)

I agree with a lot of what you say, Becky. I couldn't put my finger on it, but for the last several weeks, I've gone from reading my liberal blogs, which are all about CRISIS, THE NEXT GREAT DEPRESSION, 600K JOBS LOST, CANCER PATIENTS BEING DENIED TREATMENT AS STATES CUT HOSPITAL BUDGETS, PASSING A TRILLION DOLLAR STIMULUS PACKAGE, etc., and then opening up my email to find press releases about marriage equality.

It seems so trifling right now, especially with the obvious LGBT overtones of both the politics of the stimulus package and the economic effects of another depression. That is, if company's cut jobs, the first to go are going to be us. Instead, we're saying that love is the only agenda.

Um, no, getting a j-o-b is also part of the agenda. That's where the nation's mind is, and that's where we should be as well.

And we wonder why people think that we're too privileged to deserve equal rights.

Keep it up, Becky, engage people who have legitimate questions, and ignore those who only have the phrase "STFU" to add to the conversation.

Totally Alex. That's what really pisses me off most. Yes marriage is an important and worthy goal but it's just not as urgent a need as being able to feed, clothe, and house yourself and your family. It just seems completely ill-timed not to mention pretty self-serving in this economy and with ENDA about to come up in Congress. Further, I'd even go so far to say that it's poor taste in general to advocate for marriage rights when so many are suffering far more serious problems than ack of ability to get married.


Agreed, I'd like to see us added the Civil Rights Act, but I don't think it's going to happen. Considering how long it's taken for just workplace rights to get this far, I'm not sure that would be a successful strategy.


Sorry, I don't buy it. We have spent plenty of time advocating this issue, as you well know. Even Barney Frank, one of our most frequent critics, has praised our recent lobbying efforts. My problem with this isn't the cause, it's the timing. This is exactly not the time to get the fundies and the GOP worked up about marriage, not when workplace issue are coming up on the agenda this year. As you should also know, marriage and the religious cache it carries for many are the very first red herrings the GOP throws out there when any of our rights are on the table.

Promoting marriage right now, just before workplace rights go before is lousy timing, selfish, and just bad politics in general.

Sam, as I said to Michael above, it's not about the cause it's about the timing. I believe in marriage equality as much as anyone, but not at the expense of workplace rights. Considering that ENDA is actually about to be considered by Congress and marriage is not, as well as for the reasons noted above, I don't believe it's a good idea to push marriage at this time.

Piecemeal equality makes me nauseous.

If we are truly using the word EQUAL, then every single discrimination we face (job/adopt/marriage/DADT) would end once we are treated THE SAME in Federal Law. You know, EQUALLY.

I give credit to Wilow Fire above; I would be ignoring the I.R.S. entirely and would prefer putting a bullet through the head of anyone trying to legally oppress me (including those who would try to imprison me for refusing to be taxed unfairly). But I'm a "give me liberty or give me death" kind of guy now, after experiencing harms I never dreamed could happen due to marriage inequality.

Thing is - suffering comes from EVERY legal inequality (job/adopt/marriage/DADT) - we can't really have a "suffering competition", can we?

I'm destitute ($0 in bank, $0 assets), permanently disabled, and living as a welfare recipient ($339/month) specifically due to marriage inequality, despite being a college music grad (8 years), trained as an early-childhood music specialist, and previously being able to make $60/hour as a music educator and $100/hour as a performer.

So who is ready to REVOLT? WHEN will our community organize a reaction to federal legal inequity that MATCHES the harm this discrimination brings to our families and children? Will we ever get "mad enough" to inspire the use of firehoses?

Most gay leaders are terrified of appearing "too angry", "too demanding", or "too entitled". Maybe when someone's child is taken away by relatives the day after a spouse dies [steamboater's experience; referenced on my blog], the niceties will fall away for good.

Too many in our community are NOT suffering enough to inspire any true revolt, unlike the collective experience of Women or African-Americnas during their respective struggles.

I've recently been inspired by this post:

But the aforementioned "suffering inequality" will surely drag out this process for 20-30 more years. We will have to wait until enough people LIKE US ENOUGH.


Rebecca, nonsense.

There's nothing going on at the federal level remotely related to marriage equality with the possible exception of the Uniting American Families Act. And no one realistically expects marriage to go anywhere at the federal level because -- guess what? -- it's not a federal issue.

About a third of U.S. same-sex couples now live in states that provide a variety of protections to them. Washington state will hopefully pass legislation this year that will extend the remaining set of marriage-triggered laws to l/g couples.

In Hawaii -- our first court defeat of the latest pus for marriage equality -- the legislature is now looking at the possibility of civil unions. A bill has been submitted in Vermont to convert civil unions to marriage.

Marriage equality is hardly the "loser issue" you portray. And vilifying marriage equality advocates as "elites" tars a wide swath of people with a very broad brush.

I'm sorry to say that you appear to be very uninformed about the issue. A good start would be to read to some of the other comments attached to your post.

John, first know that you're talking to someone from New Jersey. Marriage and civil unions are not the same thing and we both know it. Friends of mine have actually lived it. This is why I didn't include Hawaii in the first place. This effort isn't being called "Freedom To Civil Union", is it?

Second, yes overall marriage is a loser issue in at least 90% of American states at minimum. Hopefully, in time that won't be the case but it is right now. Populations are basically irrelevant. What is relevant is that out of 50 state legislatures, it'll be a major stroke of success to get marriage rights in five of them. We win ENDA, we win for every LGBT American in all 50 states. There's just no comparison.

Rebecca, no, populations are not irrelevant.

Populations are aggregates of living, breathing people. One-third of l/g people are more secure as a result of having achieved some level of relationship recognition. That's a good thing, right?

To me, it seems a more appropriate measure than counting governmental boundary lines.

I know very well that civil unions aren't the full equivalent of marriage. But they're not chopped liver, either. The goal is full equality under the law, but a step along the way is nothing to sneeze at. Here in Washington state, we'll likely pass the bill this year that will make coupled l/g citizens much more secure. Our six gay legislators are very clear: this is a step on the way to full marriage. Is that OK with you?

Again, ENDA is at the federal level, where there is no marriage effort under way. So what's the problem?

steve tabarez | February 9, 2009 7:27 PM

Yes, John that is a very good piece, and actually suggested that others read it, suggested it here on BP, I think, as well as a couple threads. I wish more would. What bothers me here though, is what I mentioned in my earlier comment. Here we are arguing amongst ourselves about which right is more important, which should take precedence, and who has been more victimized than whom, based on which right we feel is more important. As I mentioned previously, this really serves no one except those that seek to keep us uneaqual on every front. As does a piecemeal approach to full civil rights, for it reduces us to what is transpiring here. By forcing us to do it state by state, right by right, it drains us of time, money, and people, and leads to the bloodletting I see here. Study history, people. Scarce resources? Scarce oppurtunities for advancing agendas? Making the subjugated fight themselves for them? Divide and conquer? Forcing the opposition to bog down in skirmishes and battles so they ultimately lose the war? State by state, right by right, we are following their strategy. It may just serve us better to come up with a better way.

More than that, what about a little civility and respect for folks who've done an awful lot of heavy lifting over the years? You can disagree with tactics without calling people names and denigrating their work. I mean, I even agree with your basic point: ENDA should be top priority right now. But your attacks and tone really just lack respect and smack of dilettantism.

Please provide data to back up assertion that ONLY the cisgendered G's and L's have been doing the work.

I'm really tired of this meme. It smacks of 'wait your turn' and 'STFU'.

Who was at the center of the Compton Riots in San Francisco? Did the straight-looking businessmen get whacked and thrown in paddywagons by the cops at stonewall? Or did the get a pass so the cops could go after the gender-variant?

Who started the Gay Liberation Front? And who was ousted after four years of 'heavy lifting' by straight-looking cisgendered G's and L's?

Here are three 'heavy lifters' you don't want to acknowledge: Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Angela Keyes Douglas.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Feminist Backlash

The modern era of the gay & lesbian rights movement is usually marked as starting on a hot July evening at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The New York police, as many city police departments across the United States did, made period raids on sexual minority bars to harass and arrest the patrons. On this particular night, transgendered woman, Sylvia Rivera, resisted arrest, touching off a riot that continued for three nights running.

In the next year, three transgendered people, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Angela Keyes Douglas would play pivotal roles in organizing the emergent Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. The goal of the Gay Liberation Front was complete acceptance of sexual diversity and expression. But by 1971 the gay men’s community had returned to the assimilations strategy as the lesbians, in 1973, turned to separatism and radical feminism. There seemed to be no room for transgendered people in either camp.

In 1971, the GAA wrote and introduced a bill to the New York City Council that was the first omnibus anti-discrimination bill to protect homosexual people. However, inspite of early and avid support of the GAA by transgendered people the bill completely ignored transgendered people. Silvia Rivera, disgusted by the betrayal, said to the leaders of the GAA, “It’s not us that they are afraid of — its you! Get rid of us. Sell us out. Make us expendable. Then you’re at the front lines. Don’t you understand that?” This marked the first serious betrayal, but certainly not the last.

You Stand Corrected.

Ummm...please show me where I made that assertion.

I don't know where you got that I think "ONLY the cisgendered G's and L's have been doing the work" but it certainly wasn't from anything I wrote, meant, or thought.

I'll kind of disagree and agree at the same time.

Does it have to be one or the other? There's no reason we couldn't push for both. It does split the money pool a little, but the focus of activism in each case is different; ENDA is not as much a cash-needy issue right now as a lobby-needy one. ENDA is something that right now needs to be sold more to legislators -- nobody's put it to a public vote. Yet.

"After all, of what use is the ability to become legally married when you can't afford to clothe, feed, and house yourself and your family?"

Well, health benefits, for one. And joint taxes... every little bit helps.

Personally, I have no issue with assisting the fight for same-sex marriage, and certainly know that it affects people in our community (i.e. unless the couple is FTM + MTF, people can always find one way or another to fight it out in a court setting). Of course, it does reduce the enthusiasm when people start grumbling about "the (non) role of transgendered and transsexuals" ( ) by virtue of seeing only ordinary-looking people contributing (what did they expect us to look like -- Dame Edna?).

But more than that, I'm not keen on dropping one cause just because it's not politically or socially viable at a particular moment in time. Wasn't that why we were dropped from the last draft of ENDA?

"Isn't it interesting how we don't see this kind of effort and these kinds of online events directed toward getting an inclusive ENDA passed"

I will agree with this. I do have concerns when it becomes THE battle. I'm tired of repeating it (and everybody's probably tired of hearing it), but that was the very clear experience in Canada. We'd won SSM and partner benefits, and then poof! activists went up in a puff of smoke. Apparently, nothing else needed doing.

To me, that is the real danger (and likelihood) with the direction that things are going.

"at a time we can least afford it, getting the right-wing worked up against us all over again just before the matter of our right to work is due to be taken on in Congress"

Were they ever not worked up? I see people hyperventilating just as much about the thought that they might lose the right to fire people for being GLBT as they are about SSM. Not to mention the potty wars, wherever legislation is discussed in which that particular fear campaign can be used.


Well, health benefits, for one. And joint taxes... every little bit helps.

What good are health benefits when you have no job and no money to pay the premiums? What good are joint tax returns to the homeless freezing to death on our streets?

No I'm sorry Mercedes, but in my opinion, workplace protections are far more urgent and far more a basic necessity of life than the right to marry will ever be.

I will agree with this. I do have concerns when it becomes THE battle. I'm tired of repeating it (and everybody's probably tired of hearing it), but that was the very clear experience in Canada. We'd won SSM and partner benefits, and then poof! activists went up in a puff of smoke. Apparently, nothing else needed doing.

This is also a valid fear. We've seen this happen all over the US, in Mass., NY, here in NJ and many other places.

In addition, the fight for SSM sucks up valuable monetary and volunteer suppport that should rightly go to toward fighting for the actually attainable, employment rights, at a time when people are literally dying because of their lack.

I know I keep saying it, but it's true. When people's lives are on the line, all else pales in comparison.

Were they ever not worked up? I see people hyperventilating just as much about the thought that they might lose the right to fire people for being GLBT as they are about SSM. Not to mention the potty wars, wherever legislation is discussed in which that particular fear campaign can be used.

Granted, but when you know the house is already on fire you also know it's best not to pour gasoline on it. Employment rights are simply too important, particularly right now, to risk enraging the right-wing against us over a cause that has little hope of progress in the immediate future.

Douglas Gibson Jr | February 9, 2009 10:19 PM

I am sick to death of hearing how the LGBT elitist are focusing on marriage. It is probably one of the last things that they are focusing on. I have been trying to get them to pay attention to it for years. All I ever hear is, "Now is not the right time." "Calm down, we will get this at a later time. Well, my partner and I have been together for over 25 years and I am tired of waiting. I am tired of others telling me that their issue is more important than mine. I will continue to fight for same sex marriage as hard as I ever have, as well as the other issues that are near and dear to my heart. One is not done at the exclusion of others. I will not give into the right because they raise hell. I will just raise more hell.

Yes it is more more important, Douglas. No one is dying because they can't get married, but people are dying and being condemned to homelessness and poverty because they can't get jobs.

Yes it is more important and yes you should wait your turn, just as transpeople were told to wait ours for years. The difference is that no one waiting to get married will not survive from not having the right to do so. It's really just that simple.

Douglas Gibson Jr | February 10, 2009 7:35 AM

Name me one LGBT person who has died because of this recession.

No it is not more important. No I should not have to wait my turn. I have worked my ass off to get and keep a job over the years where I can be open about who I am. If I do not get health insurance for my partner soon, he may die for the lack of it. How many others are in the same boat? What if he is not allowed to inherit the property that we have built into a home together? Where we he be? Out in the cold. So, you need to look at both sides before you decide that one is more important than the other. I have fought for your cause for years, however people are beginning to not fight for mine, so should I stop fighting for theirs? No.

I say this as someone who still supports fighting for marriage rights:

"Name me one LGBT person who has died because of this recession."

That's really not hard to find. And it's only the start, once you start to factor in the studies of trans and gay youth living in poverty or having attempted suicide, etc. Not all of that is attributable to the economy, of course, but it certainly is a factor most times.

I'm not really interested in arguing about who is the "most marginalized," because everybody loses at that one (not to mention that it wastes energy that could be better used elsewhere). But I'm tired of the attitude that advocates for the marginalized are being whiners and that realities for these people are never really that bad.

"But I'm tired of the attitude that advocates for the marginalized are being whiners and that realities for these people are never really that bad."

Which I should clarify that you didn't actually state in your comments, either. However, the statement "Name me one LGBT person who has died because of this recession" is quite reminiscent of people with this attitude.

The right wingers will scream equally at any issue that involves us, be it marriage equality or nondiscrimination laws. They will use either to get their base to start shelling out more cash, if not to "defend the holy sanctity of marriage" then to "defend women and children from men in the ladies bathroom."

So we can work for both issues. They are related in many ways. We can and should say something, however, when the spotlight shifts too brightly on marriage equality. We do need nondiscrimination laws at the federal level, we do need to promote that yet I will stand with my community when they want me to help with equal marriage rights on the state level. I'll definitely be telling them, though, right there when I'm standing with them, that we need protection for basic civil rights more than we need marriage rights.

Again, I'm not saying marriage isn't a worthy cause, I'm saying the timing is bad. I'm saying that with the economy being what it is and with the employment situation for LGBT people being even worse than the not-so-great it usually is in good times, this is the time to focus on getting workplace rights passed, not expending valuable political capital on an issue that's going to take a lot longer to resolve and is far less urgent.

How about you just let people choose what they want to focus on, and leave them be? Or is grandstanding too much fun? You would do well to learn a fair bit about American history, or world history for that matter. FDR channeled the harsh times into an unparalleled drive for equality that we haven't seen since. His work to extend fair representation of workers as well as promoting desegregation (when possible) within federal civilian employment laid the groundwork for the prosperity that followed his death. With your logic we should defer ALL attempts at progress, to include ENDA, yet you seem to suggest we can make an exception for that. Why? I find your reasoning highly illogical.

As to the benefits of marriage you provide no support for your idea that the wealthy gain the most from marriage. People who can afford lawyers, who can afford to draw up contracts that mimic marriage, who can afford separate health insurance (or even have it!), they do not need marriage. That to me is irrefutable logic.

No, what I'm saying is that ENDA needs to be the priority because jobs are more important and more urgent than marriage, especially right now.

It's worth remember that employment prospects aren't great for LGBT in many areas of the country even in good times and now it's reached beyond desperation level.

As an example, before the recession it had been estimated that transpeople had an unemployment between 50-75%. Now imagine what that rate might be by now.

Yes, jobs are just more important and more urgent for LGBT's than marriage. Employment and a reliable paycheck is the base from which all else springs in terms of living and happy and coomfortable life. For some, it's the difference between life and death. No matter what yardstick you use, you'll find yourself at that inescapable conclusion.

Thanks Becky for being a voice for passage of an inclusive ENDA. We are in a survival of the fittest not unlike most of life. For most creatures territory (home), food, and avoiding getting eaten by somebody bigger than you consumer daily life. Bonding and reproduction/parenting are sacrificed if these essentials are not met. An inclusive ENDA at least is an attempt to put LGBT citizens on a level playing ground with the rest of society.

While I empathize with the SSM issue, an inclusive ENDA should be a formost concern of all. Without home and sustainence, bonding and parenting are secondary.

Politics via Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Sure why not? Would that everyone used such basic common-sense guidelines when picking political priorities.

I am glad this debate has come up. ENDA, DADT, DOMA is a slap in the face to the rights of man, and unconstitutional. No citizen should be treated as in a caste system "untouchables" in a democracy, and separate but equal doesn't make sense. Our civil rights are important and that is why I, a 74 year old man has given everything up to fight for them. I will probably be sent to prison. No it is not about evading taxes as my detractors on this blog love to state. My husband and I are one of the 18,000 couples in California legally married and our marriage and love is under attack by those Christians who say we are abominable. I am fighting seperation of church and state the cause of our discrimination in my law suit against the IRS. No gay organization will mention religion as being the cause of our oppression. They don'w want to offend the government who is giving out handouts to "faith based" charlatans who won't employ us and the government doesn't care. Would we be allowed soup in their soup kitchen lines.
75 is the life cutoff for white males living in this country and I would not feel like my life had been worth anything had I not stood up for injustice. I make a big deal about Merrill/Lynch and Johnson and Johnson in my press releases because those names automatically get picked up by the world press. If it was just me a gay man no one would pick up my story. I get email for Afganistan and other remote parts of the world due to our tax protest. I am living off the kindness of friends who encourage my sticking up for LGBT rights. My hero is Bayard Rustin a gay man who struggled all his life for civil rights and got no recognition because he was gay. Would he be joining us in the tax protest. Fuck yes. The only valuable property in my name is my two year old Chrysler. If the IRS takes that I will be walking. I feel my actions are something I have to do for the cause. I am not a hero, just something I feel I have to do and others have followed, like John Biseglia and Melissa Etheredge. Not pay taxes to a government that ignores our being as full citizens? Yes, I have no choice. I am as good as they are and so are you. We deserve all the rights. In so far as cottage industries surrounding the marriage movement asking for donations, that's there business. The ones I have seen are bureaucratic non-profit mumbo jumbo fundraising efforts so the CEO can travel around the country and stay in pricey hotels. They are cheerleaders but not activists.

First of all, your bitterness does nothing but divide. Think about that for a minute. Secondly marriage equality is more than it appears. It is a BASIC cornerstone of ALL of us gaining freedom and equality. Supporting people's right to love who they choose is HUGE. It is hugely important if you are one of the lucky ones that is truly in love. I do not need a marriage license to prove my love, but I do need it to get my husband's health insurance as I do not have any. Weren't you JUST talking about health issues??? Well I have one and my legal marriage will address that. We have many fights, but like Obama is trying to get people to see, like Gandhi, we need to do it together and inclusively. Bigger problem than gay marriage is global warming or WAR. So let's work together for all the causes, in peace.

No Perry, employment (i.e. steady and reliable income) is the true basic cornerstone of all of us gaining freedom and equality.

How does one effectively advocate for marriage when you can't feed, clothe, and house yourself and your family? Of what value is the right to save money on taxes when you're homeless and freezing to death?

When a couple, regardless of gender, decides to get married, what do they do first? Do they call the caterers, buy their outfits, and rent a hall, or do they first ensure that they'll be able to afford that celebration and their life together, and have a place to live once they get back from their honeymoon?

Common sense tells you the obvious: Jobs must come first or the rest just isn't possible. In order to have a happy married life, you first have to make sure you can afford to live it.

Employment and income are the cake, marriage is the icing.

The IRS attached all my brokerage and bank accounts leaving me nothing but a car. I knew they would. If constitutional civil rights including all citizens aren't worth going to prison for, then civil rights have lost their meaning in favor of fundamental Christian laws against homosexuality.

I wish it were only as simple as joint tax returns. Even in a massive recession/depression is there no value in having health insurance benefits for your unemployed partner, or being allowed to keep your house when your partner dies?

Freedom to starve? How about starving yourself because you have to provide for your sick partner out-of-pocket and becoming homeless from not being able to pay the tax when they die? It happens more often than you might think.

Just little problems that might be fixed if your partner were your legal spouse.

Agred, Lizbeth, but such benefits can also be given with civil unions, which, while they certainly aren't the equal of marriage, don't carry the same level religious outrage as marriage does. If we were talking about an effort to ensure civil unions and benefit equality (which the President says he supports), I doubt I'd be anywhere near as angry because the risk wouldn't be anywhere near as great.

Advocating for marriage now is risking people's live unnecessarily for little chance of success, particularly when time are as tough as they are and there's another less controversial option.

Where are all those incrementalists now, I wonder?

I am a strong supporter of same-sex marriage, even though I don't have a partner. I want to marry one day, when the right guy comes along, but I don't have anyone - yet I still believe that it is an important issue.

We don't have to choose! Why would we have to do one or the other (marriage or jobs)? We are fighting for equality in all parts of life. The workplace is part of that fight.

Yes, we are in a terrible recession. It is the worst since the Republican Great Depression of 1929. But just because times are tough does not and should not mean that we give up our fight for marriage rights, no matter how difficult the fight is.

Rebecca, I just don't agree with your statement that civil unions are fine and we should be satisfied with that instead of marriage. Second class status may be fine for you, but as for the rest of us we want our full share of the rights we ALREADY HAVE but are being denied to us.

I didn't say that civil unions are fine, I said that they engender less religiously based hostility and have the Presednt's support and are more attainable right now.

I support SSM, but employment rights are a far more urgent issue as well as one that we can actually do something about federally in this session of Congress.

It's a matter of priorities. Civil Unions give the rights without the name, and that's not enough but it's better than what is available now. Employment rights are essential to provide people with the basic necessities of life and keep them out of poverty and homelessness.

One issue is life and death, the other is not. That, more than anything else, should be the determining factor in setting priorities here.

I jumped into this fight a few years ago and got the same crap for my efforts. Those people with jobs think they are somehow safe, so they care very little about employment protection and think marriage is so damn abtainable. It's that dangerous mindset that got amendments to state constitutions in 3/4 of the states. The rich LG people are selfish when it comes to equal rights, telling trans people to wait, but they won't wait. Their lack of setting priorities and demanding something that the country wasn't ready for screwed over many LGBT people in this country. And, does it look like they learned their lesson? IDFTS. We know several well-known LG people who threw us off the bus, then bitched and moaned when Prop 8 passed like they thought it was suppose to be their birth right because they were born with a silver spoon up their . . .

The sad truth is that in all 50 states, regardless of whether there is state employment protection or not, they can be fired for a lot of reasons that are used to cover up the true reason of being fired for being LGBT. ENDA will level the playing field in all 50 states, and start the road to recovery for many unemployed and under-employed LGBT people.

There is one thing that the supporters of SSM seem to forget. If there are more LGBT people working and surviving, then there will be more financial support for marriage rights. You want money so you can win the right to get married? Get us a damn job.

Changing birth certificate gender varies state to state. Only Ohio, Tennessee and Idaho prohibit gender switch. You can marry the person you love legally. If it is another woman, just keep your original birth certificate that says male. This must be the real reason why same-sex marriage is not a factor with transgender people marrying. You and Monica Helms can't see same-sex marriage as being important. Now I understand why.
You said "There are people dying out here, right now, right in our backyards." I don't know where you live but call 911 quick and take them to the nearest welfare office.

I do see SSM as important, Charles, but I don't see it as more urgent or important as employment rights.

And yes you're right, here in NJ as a pre-op I am still legally defined as male and thefore could marry a woman (as a man) if I chose to. All I'd have to give up would be my identity and my self respect. I do hope to marry someday, but that's not a price I'd be willing to pay for the privilege.

I'd also point out that in many states as someone who has lived as a woman for almost 12 years, I'd be able to legally change my gender designator to female, but then I'd only be able to marry a man.

And you think you have marriage issues...

Thomas Johnson | February 10, 2009 4:56 PM

Reminde me again how an inclusive ENDA is going to get trans individuals jobs? The community thinks this is going to fix everything. Personally, I think it is short sided. ENDA will pass this year....what's next and how are the peeps in the Trans community going to get jobs?

The community should be focusing on a college to create a welcoming community where Trans youth can go to get the tools they need and a VERY IMPORTANT education.

Read my piece again Thomas. Never did I say that ENDA would solve everything, and in fact I said it would be a start to the process of fixing things.

Would things have improved for African-Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities as they have over the last couple of generations without the Civil Rights Act?

It has to start somewhere. We've already made great inroads at the state and local level, but non-discrimination needs to be the law of the land to really have the kind of impact we need it to have, just as was the case with race and ethnicity.

A while ago I wrote a blog post called "An UN-Unified Front" - I suggest that our community will get little to nothing done because our very diversity is precluding a UNITED in a front that might be MORE effective than 20 organizations going for 10 different rights piecemeal.

WITHOUT BEING A JUDGEMENT ON THE CONTENT ABOVE - A quick scan of the comments above reveal just how dis-united we are in fighting inequality. We may be TOO diverse for unity (?!?)

POOR gays/RICH gays
NORTH/SOUTH....oh, and every race in existence.

I just hate the compartmentalization of human rights. It weakens the fight. Dilutes it.

And given that I believe in the INTERDEPENDENCE of all things, including humans, I cannot separate marriage from job from children's rights from adoption from immigration issues. Either our homes and families are given EQUAL rights & protections (i.e. - respect) legally in both military and civilian life or not.

The only "special" right we may need once the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT of 1964 is amended to include "love orientation"
(and we TRULY treat humans equally REGARDLESS of gender or intersex) is the legal acknowledgement that we ARE targets and victims of HATE CRIMES.

John, I don't see prioritizing employment rights as compartmentalizing, I see it as taking on the most urgent priority first. It's worth noting that the passage of an inclusive ENDA would protect all LGBT Americans, many of whom are in frankly desperate need right now, whereas the passage of a marriage bill in any state would a) only impact those who wish to be married, and b) (probably) those reside in that particular state.

I'd love to see us included in the Civil Rights Act, but given the rank cowardice we've seen on these issues from Congress over the years regardless of who's been in charge, I'm dubious of the chances of it ever actually happening.

But why do *you* get to decide what's the most urgent priority? Activists prioritize for themselves.

Believe me: if the Bilerico Project looked a little, they could find someone who belittles your rights as much as you're belittling everyone else's. Someone somewhere in the LGBT community has an issue that is more "urgent" than yours. Why are you not working to help them, since you believe we all need to work only one single issue simultaneously?

I hope that ENDA passes. I also hope that you realize you're not the center of the world. We're all in this together, and I find your attitude so destructive to community.

I really hope the Bilerico Project will balance your posts with someone who doesn't have such an obvious chip on their shoulder. I don't mean this disrespectfully. It hurts me that we're letting such closed-mindedness keep us from achieving our goals *together*, and I fear that you've just turned several people away from ENDA and several away from marriage equality without adding anything to the discussion except vitriol.

What's the saying? With friends like these, who needs enemies.

Hey, I'm for whatever GETS US THERE. I do appreciate your perspective. And as I can see from the diverse opinions above, we are ALL hurt in some way from EVERY possible angle.

Personally, I was self-employed for 20 years, so folks like me are not affected by ENDA directly. But having a grand piano in my "home" as a business was PROFOUNDLY affected ny marriage inequality.

Being an incarnation of Beelzebub himself (lame attempt at levity), a devil's advocate may wonder why anyone would WANT to work for someone who would discriminate against them? Why work for bigots? (I realize many do not have such options).

I am equally pessimistic about progress in D.C. Maybe if Malia or Sasha come out things may change (not IM-possible).

One nod to Charles Merrill - Charles, I for one will be expressing EXACTLY WHAT I THINK in my town if you are sent to prison (and you probably will not approve). At least one of us will let society know what they think of unjust taxation and family inequality.

I have worked for the same company 19 years now and transitioned 11.5 years ago. I also know that if I lost my job, it would be my age that would keep me from getting a new job rather than being trans. I pass well. I can also say that ENDA would not affect me. I don't use the VA, but I fight for fair treatment for transgender veterans in VA facilities. My feeling is that I don't fight for employment rights and equal rights for me. I'm fighting for those LGBT people who haven't even been born yet. I want them to have a better world then we have.

EEKS!!!!!!!! - Important revision:

"At least one of us will let society know what we think of YOUR UNJUST IMPRISONMENT just because you stood up to unjust taxation and family inequality."

(everyone here has surely let society know what they think of inequality!)

But I'd like to see riots when one of our queer folk experiences a GROSS legal injustice....I'm holding my last straw.

And with all this bickering, nothing will get done.

Rebecca, right or wrong on the issue, your tone smacks of "gays should go to the back of the bus while transgendered people get their turn."

I quote from above:

"Yes it is more important and yes you should wait your turn, just as transpeople were told to wait ours for years."

I don't think transpeople should wait their turn. I don't think I should wait my turn. I *do* think that you are doing exactly what the homophobes want: turn us against ourselves and they can just sit back and watch.

I would advise you to respect other people in your postings. I, for one, will *not* be told by another member of the LGBT community that I should "wait my turn" without being offended. I am just as much a member of the LGBT community as you are.

There are reasons why marriage has to wait its turn:

1. Marriage isn't as socially acceptable in the US as LGBT employment rights or hate crimes protections. It's also not as socially acceptable as gays and lesbians serving openly in the military or the idea of gays and lesbians being able to access the same rights as married people through civil unions. No, it isn't fair, but that's the way it is.

2. Marriage is banned in 45 states. That's a pretty steep hill to climb, a lot steeper than any other LGBT issue of any real significance of the moment. Marriage is going to take a hell of a long time to win completely. In fact, I doubt many of us, or maybe even any of us, will live to see same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

3. ENDA and hate crimes are due to come up this spring in Congress. For the first time in about a decade it has a real chance of becoming law. For the first time ever, it has a real chance of protecting all of us. Getting the fundies worked up about marriage right now is exactly what we don't need to be doing.

Erich Riesenberg | July 2, 2009 6:11 PM

New to the site. Live in Iowa. Glad you were wrong on this! Iowa was one of the 45 states you referenced where gay marriage is illegal, now gay couples have the legal protection.

Rev. Bill Johnson | July 17, 2009 12:09 PM

Read your article with a curiosity at just how far you'd sell out real justice for your bowl of porridge. HEY THE STRUGGLE IS ABOUT REAL JUSTICE not your...stomach.
The ancient Hebrews also whinned that they were going to perish and they wanted to return to their slave masters who fed them.
It is people like you that benefit with every advance the gay rights movement makes. call it failure even before the fight is over. I am glad that the gay rights movement has gone of and left you. The rest of us are still working for justice and time and tide are on our side.