Alex Blaze

The Dallas Principles, full equality now, and ENDA

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 22, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: Dallas Principles, ENDA, eQualityGiving, jobs, Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover

I suppose I ought to explain my barely-concealed contempt for the phrase "full equality now." In brief, I don't like the idea that there's a point at which we'll declare this movement over (when those web banners reach 100%, that'll mean all our problems are solved!), and I don't think that it makes all that much sense to declare a list of laws, some of which are literally not about making the law equal between straight/cis people and LGBT folks (like ENDA and hate crimes legislation), the definition of what it means to be a full class citizen. Throw in the fact that many of the people rallying around this and declaring themselves "0% equal" are plenty more equal than I am right now....

Anyway, I was agnostic on the Dallas Principles because they're not really an org or any entity that does anything, but if they get more people involved than were previously, then more power to them. To my understanding, it's a manifesto put together by Bilerico contributors Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover of the gay mega-donor group eQuality Giving and a group of like-minded people they assembled at the airport hotel in Ft. Worth one weekend to criticize the movement and try to set a new direction for everyone else, which is all good stuff. Anyone who has read this site for two days knows that I have nothing against criticizing the movement or trying to get queers to think in new ways.

What is troubling, though, is they're being used as a reason to avoid actual progress. Here's Juan and Ken discussing the ENDA and the Dallas Principles in the comments on Bilerico:

1. ENDA does not cover other important protections that people usually associate together with employment: public accommodations, housing, and credit (financing). They are in our minds because of are part of civil rights legislation.[...]

For all of the reasons above, I believe that Indiana Equality has shown tremendous vision, leadership, and courage in pointing out that ENDA is not enough, nor appropriate (since it is a separate statue).[...]

A point that some people bring up against expanding civil rights legislation is that it is problematic. In fact, this legislation has been expanded multiple times.

As we all know, the movement went through the discussion about getting something now vs. waiting for a full inclusive ENDA in 2007 and 2008. I think that it is safe to say that we have reached a clear consensus that we are not leaving anyone behind and that we will all support only a trans inclusive ENDA. We know that our will will be tested in the Senate, where it seems, we may not have enough votes.

Then the question is not about Indiana Equality, but is about do we ask for full civil rights or we take a watered down ENDA (but trans inclusive)? This is an important discussion that we should all have.

Here are some points of reference in that discussion.

First, as a co-author of The Dallas Principles (, here is Principle #3: "ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY: Every LGBT person has the right to economic opportunity free from discrimination in employment, public housing, accommodation, public facilities, credit, and federally funded programs and activities."

Everyone should be free from discrimination in all of those areas. But let's be honest: the biggest one is employment, both in terms of economic importance and the fact that that's where most anti-queer discrimination is occurring right now.

Saying that ENDA is only about jobs doesn't ring as an effective argument against it - every possible bill for LGBT people is going to exclude some area of the law or public policy. If ENDA included public accomodations and housing as well as jobs, it still wouldn't include outness in the military and hate crime legislation. If it included everything in Juan and Ken's LGBT omnibus bill, it still wouldn't include increased domestic HIV prevention and treatment funds (as Californians who need AIDS meds get kicked off state assistance and are pretty much being sentenced to death), funds and anti-discrimination legislation for queer homeless people, and directives to police to stop arresting, hassling, and entrapping men for lookin' for a little lovin' in all the wrong places.

And by the time we get all those bills and policies enacted, who knows what new problems will have presented themselves to LGBT people. What if a new epidemic starts? What if the protections passed have loopholes no one foresaw? What about things we can't even begin to imagine now that will be vitally important in 20, 30, 40 years?

My point is: there's no such thing as "full equality," and holding off on good legislation, which would be a clear improvement over the status quo and a beginning to having queer oppression acknowledged as something worth fighting against by the federal government, for "full equality" is far too abstract for me right now. As Juan and Ken pointed out in their comment above, civil rights legislation for African Americans was expanded several times to get to its current state. Employment protections for women were last updated in 2009 with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Legislators started somewhere and worked from there. So if the Dallas Principles require us to oppose the ENDA, then they're simply not a useful tool to advance an agenda.

(Opposing a sexual orientation only ENDA is completely different. The cruel joke behind the "incrementalism" and "half a loaf" arguments in favor of dropping the T was that, for transgender people, it wasn't incrementalism or half a loaf. It was nothing. Cutting people out of legislation isn't acceptable incrementalism since it's a clear divide-and-conquer tactic and we shouldn't participate in our own destruction. That's why the main voices against trans inclusion generally resorted to transphobia to defend their position - they knew their cynically deployed "incrementalism" argument was illogical in that context.)

While Juan and Ken say opposition to the ENDA shows "tremendous vision, leadership, and courage," and while Indiana Equality is justifying its opposition to ENDA with the Dallas Principles (all while LGBT Hoosiers continue to have no job protections), I'm still not sure that the Dallas Principles require opposition to the ENDA.

Then again, since they expressly avoid demanding any specific legislation, I suppose they're much like the Bible - they can be interpreted by any person who buys into them to give credence to their own pre-existing personal beliefs. And I'm sure both people who say "yes" and "no" will appear in the comments, and let's have that debate.

Ultimately, though, I'll continue to define my personal beliefs based on my own experiences, thoughts, and disposition, not a document drawn up by others. I was born a dirty fuckin' hippie, and I'll die a dirty fuckin' hippie.

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Juan and Ken never said that TDP require one to oppose ENDA. They praised Indiana Equality for pointing out that ENDA is insufficient.

The legislative process proceeds in its own mystical ways. Many of us co-authors have been and will continue to be involved in that process, both on the national and state/local levels.

The more fundamental point of The Dallas Principles was to clarify that full civil rights does not stop with an employment law, or a hate crimes law. Yes, the African-American community obtained its rights in tranches, but they demanded all of them up front. We had not before last month.

So we want our rights, all of them, now. No delays. No excuses. And we will keep pushing for them all, even as we praise the Senate for finally passing Hate Crimes, and then finally passing an inclusive ENDA, and repealing DOMA . . .

While obviously they can speak for themselves (and I'm sure they will), they didn't say it was just "insufficient," which everyone agrees with, they said it was inappropriate. And Equality Indiana didn't just "point out" that ENDA was insufficient, a point that most people who criticized IE's decision have been making for years, they released a statement actively opposing the ENDA.

Outside of the authors, I've see quite a few people, like in the comments here and Indiana Equality, say that the Dallas Principles do require opposition to the ENDA. I'm glad that you're clear in your support of ENDA, but I don't think that that means all people who signed on to the Dallas Principles agree.

Thanks for commenting.

And just for clarity's sake, here's the relevant part of IE original statement:

Indiana Equality believes that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities should be engaged in a national dialog about the need for full inclusion in the federal Civil Rights code. There is a window of opportunity now that may not come for another generation. If we push for less than full inclusion, it may be more difficult to motivate public support for full civil right protections. We should not ask for less than we need.

Anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable. Accordingly, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (END) as currently proposed, cannot be accepted, supported or promoted by Indiana Equality.

It has become evident that adding LGBT persons to local and state civil rights laws is not only possible but crucial. Adding only the right to employment at the Federal level will do little to protect the civil rights of all citizens.

And their statement about how they reached that conclusion:

The Indiana Equality (IE) Board of Directors was unanimous (with one abstention) in its decision to support full lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion in the United States Civil Rights code. IE knew that it would be controversial, but believes that there had been a failure to have a national discussion on such an important issue and that it is time for such a discussion. We have since noted that the Dallas Principles ( are in support of full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in our nation’s civil rights protections. Indiana Equality does not have organizational members; we refer you to Indiana Equality Action (IE Action).

diddlygrl | June 22, 2009 5:05 PM

You can't legislate away prejudice or discrimination. Even with ENDA we will still face the same bull shit, they will just have to coat it in chocolate so that the Government won't get after them. It is really pretty easy to say for someone to say they found a better qualified applicant or something similiar.

What next then, affirmative action? Truthfully I would find it demeaning to be the 'token' LGBT person at a company. It didn't work very well for others, it wouldn't work very well for us either.

Cultural attitudes are what needs to change, and that is not going to happen without education and our just being examples of how 'normal' LGBT people are when it comes down to cases. It also takes getting rid of the Inciters, who in the name of their religion preach intolerance and hate which is getting LGBT people assaulted and killed.

If religious freedom is so damn important, then why do we seek to silence people like Osama bin Laden and the other fundimentalist muslim preachers? After all, what they are preaching Is in the Koran after all.

I agree - equality won't come just from legislation. The law is a tool, a powerful tool, but it's not the only one and it can't accomplish everything.

Oh geez, the "M" word.

It's been my experience that anytime "manifesto" is used, trouble brews.

I understand what you are trying to argue, but I would caution you against saying things like, Throw in the fact that many of the people rallying around this and declaring themselves "0% equal" are plenty more equal than I am right now....

"Equal," like "unique" cannot be measured in degrees. You (or more accurately, your rights) are either equal or are not. One person may, I suppose, suffer inequality in more ways or situations than another person, but even that's a dangerous thing to claim. Let's not get sucked in by oppression olympics, huh?

I realize that this is a criticism of both your statement and the idea that anyone can be "x% equal." Why not criticize them on the grounds that determining a percentage of equality is ridiculous, rather than complaining that you're even "less equal" than they are?

That's actually the point I was making with that statement. :)

I mean, when hate crimes legislation passes, will we be 9% equal? The banners are set up to calculate that, so what percent is attributed to each bill?

And how much did the memorandum last week count for? To me, no more than 2%, but no less than .5%. Of course it has to be taken into account with the Clinton XO that banned discrimination on sexual orientation. Maybe we could just say 1.5% total?

Of course, one could just say that these sorts of calculations aren't productive....

Power to the Dirty Fuckin' Hippies!!!!!!!

Up the Dallas Principles!!!!!!!

Oh that felt good...........(:

The principles I read were totally vague. We want equal rights now? What rights? This isn't colonial America, and issuing a bill of rights is a tad ridonkulus.
We already have laws to pass, ENDA and the rest. A set of abstract principles is a waste of time and energy. Or maybe it was invented as an excuse to hold a party in DC. That's the kind of action the leadership like: useless and distracting but popular with the circuit set.
We would do better to re-evaluate our strategy of the last year. It's been an abysmal failure, for obvious reasons in my view. And it needs to be re-thought. Throwing away a quick and easy victory on domestic partnership was a huge mistake, as was most of the other things we wasted energy on this year. But let's not look at that. Let's drum up impossible demands to make us feel even more put upon and self righteous that we already do, if possible.

mixedqueer mixedqueer | June 23, 2009 1:32 AM

i was just having a similar discussion with my sister tonight. i'm all for internal critique. it's us radicals on the left-most extreme of the community that keeps the pressure on the movement to stay hungry. at the same time, i'm not going to call my senator, explain how gender discrimination affects my employment opportunities and work environment, and then ask that person to vote against ENDA.

alex i think you made an important point when you said:

"Cutting people out of legislation isn't acceptable incrementalism since it's a clear divide-and-conquer tactic and we shouldn't participate in our own destruction."

laws that specifically exclude certain groups of people from their coverage are flawed and should be changed or replaced.

a toothless bill, on the other hand, is reason to continue organizing for stronger legislation, not for pursuing its dismissal.

and another good point was made: passing a bill saying discrimination is illegal will not magically remove it from our daily experience. it'll just give us something to nail those suckers on if they are sloppy with their hatred. it will lead to definitive court rulings. it will be a foundation for legislative progression.

I personally liked how Jill put it. Having the laws is good, but I hardly think we'll reach full equality so long as we remain a minority. Minorities never reach full equality; that's why they are minorities to begin with.

Women, blacks, and other recent civil rights groups still have not achieved full equality despite being considerably ahead of us.

Gay marriage may be miraculously granted by the SCOTUS tomorrow, and that still wouldn't stop the gay bashings, the imposed invisibility on LGBT representation in TV/media, the financial gaps, the disparate value aming families in social environments.

Kevin Erickson | June 23, 2009 4:25 AM

Women are not a minority!

They are. Minorities are not dictated by number, but by social power.

beachcomberT | June 23, 2009 6:35 AM

ENDA won't be a panacea. How will it be enforced? Who will want to declare their sexual orientation on a job application? And apparently ENDA won't cover military jobs -- a huge hole. And churches, no doubt, also will be exempted, so gay priests and seminarians won't have any legal protection against the Vatican's scapegoating campaign. But something is better than nothing. At least ENDA will create a statutory standard that may help gay and trans people and their advocacy groups win lawsuits against recalcitrant employers.

Rick Sours | June 23, 2009 9:10 AM

We are still second class citizens. Don't Ask/Don't Tell should be appealed and regarding civil rights we should have health insurance benefits and survivor benefits like our hetersexual counter-parts.

Both my Partner John and myself were raised in religious families. We were taught that the Old Testament is simply to be seen as literature and our faith was based on the New Testament. There is nothing anti Gay in the New Testament.We were taught that we should always ask ourselves the question what would Jesus do? Sadly in my opinion many religions have loss their focus and been hijacked by the religious right. That being said what right do they have to get in our face so to speak?

I grew up in a faith that was one of those that took part and got arrested in the civil rights marches in the south. Only with the help of others have any group in the past gotten full equality.

To quote what I have previously written: "Sometimes in the case of discrimination against LGBT individuals it is very hard to prove. My Partner and I were the victims of hate and Gay harassment. We tried all the legal means for our protection. When it got to court the Judge would not allow our police reports against the other parties doing the harassment. The other side lied in court under oath and the Judge sided with them. We sold our home and moved to another state."