Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

ENDA Petition Drive: Cleve Jones, GetEqual and the Courage Campaign

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 24, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Pelosi, petition

The news out of DC is that, according to Rep. Frank, ENDA will go for a markup the first week that Congress is back after the Easter break, and thence to a House vote shortly thereafter.

That's great news, but there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. That means that Frank proposes, but Pelosi disposes. After all, we've had promises practically every month since June that there would be a vote on ENDA. Until we hear it from the Speaker herself and see it on the calendar, one might be excused for a bit of skepticism.

So what should we do? In situations like this, I ask myself, WWCJD?

What would Cleve Jones do?

Fortunately, that question has been answered for us. Cleve Jones has written an open letter to Nancy Pelosi about ENDA. He has teamed up with GetEqual and the Courage Campaign to start a petition drive to get signatures to deliver to Speaker Pelosi to let her know that the people want ENDA. It will be delivered some time in early April, with due ceremony and media attention, I am sure.

Here's the petition website: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog

Cleve Jones's letter after the jump, and some thoughts about petition drives.

Dear Speaker Pelosi --

I would like to express my deep appreciation and gratitude for your relentless perseverance in the passage of health care reform. Along with President Obama, your steadfast leadership and personal commitment has fundamentally changed the lives of millions of Americans.

You and I have known each other for a long time, since we first met as political organizers in San Francisco. I was proud when you were elected Speaker and proud again on Sunday night when you gave a powerful speech on the floor of the House of Representatives about the meaning of health care reform, eloquently asserting that:

"When it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.' It's personal for the family that wrote to me who had to choose between buying groceries and seeing a doctor. It's personal to the family who was refused coverage because their child had a pre-existing condition..."

This profound statement about the power of politics to change the lives of everyday people touched me deeply. And it reminded me of the opportunity we have right now to transform the lives of Americans again -- the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

As shocking as it may be to believe in the year 2010, LGBT people can still legally be fired from their jobs in at least 29 states of our country simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. That's why the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is so vitally important.

Once passed, ENDA would provide to all Americans basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As my friends at Pride at Work describe it, ENDA is "based on the labor principle that every worker should be judged solely on his or her merits as a worker" and is similar in nature to other federal civil rights laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

We've seen the passion you've brought to the challenge of passing health care reform. Now more than ever, we need your passion and skill to achieve the passage of ENDA.

As you know, many Americans in the LGBT community -- especially young people -- are increasingly frustrated and cynical about the pace of progress in Washington.

We want you to show them that cynicism is not the response at this time. They need to believe in the process, Madame Speaker, and you can restore their faith in this process by moving expeditiously to bring ENDA to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.

I know your values, Madame Speaker, and I know that you strongly support ENDA. Now I want these young people to know what is in your heart.

With the knowledge that health care reform has been achieved and that enough votes now exist in the House today to pass ENDA, will you work with Rep. George Miller, Chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, to ensure that ENDA is passed out of committee and brought to the floor of the house immediately?

I am writing this open letter to you and sharing it with my friends in the Courage Campaign and GetEQUAL communities, thousands of whom will sign a petition to you asking that ENDA be prioritized for passage now. You can read the petition -- and Americans can sign on to it -- here: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog

Congratulations again on your historic achievement. Along with thousands of other people reading this letter, I wish you the best.

Cleve Jones
Senior Advisor, Courage Campaign


When I practiced law, there was an old saying about how to persuade a jury.

"If you want the jury to say it to you, then you must say it to them."

In other words, if you're the prosecutor, you have to say the words "this defendant is guilty." Or "not guilty" if you're the defense attorney. As often as possible. Of course, it's not as simple as that, but if you present dozens of witnesses and mounds of evidence, but you never tell the jury what it is you want them to find, it makes it harder for them to sort through the flak the other side inevitably throws up.

The principle is the same here. If you want Congressmembers to vote yes on ENDA, then you must tell them that you want them to vote yes on ENDA. And we've been telling them, through visits and phone calls and letters. But now is crunch time. There's been a lot going on in DC lately, as you know.

You must make them sit up and take notice of ENDA. You must make it clear that you want it, and how bad.

However, I have seen petition drives stumble badly. It takes dedication and asking people over and over and over again to sign. It takes making the case over and over and over again. I'm prepared to do it.

And I'm asking you to take it on, as well. I am asking you to, right now, sign this petition, post this to your facebook pages, to your twitter accounts, send emails to your friends and relatives and follow up with a phone call to them: "Did you get my email to sign the petition?"

Here it is again: http://www.getequal.org/SpeakerPelosi_blog

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Signed! Time to keep the pressure on Speaker Pelosi to bring this issue to a vote. Thank you Dr. Weiss for your leadership on this issue.

Thanks, T2, for signing the petition. Every drop is a part of the ocean.

thanks for all your efforts.

Thanks for your kind words, Javier, and thanks for signing the petition.

Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | March 24, 2010 8:41 PM

WooHoo! I can access Bilerico again! And signed!

Thanks for signing, Margaret. Much appreciated.

I saw Antonia's tweet, signed, and tweeted.

Greg, thanks for signing the petition.

I guess the premise for this Petition Drive is that Nancy Pelosi doesn't already know we want ENDA passed?

Aside from that oversight, how many signatures do we need? What number of signatures is enough to make Pelosi act? Thousands? Millions?

This is more political masturbation (Credit:John Arvosis) to keep some organizations in business. The latest, GetEqual. These stunts are intended to make volunteers feel useful. When they find out these stunts have no effect they stop participating.

First Cleve Jones sends some kids to lock themselves in Pelosi's office in an effort to publicly embarrass her, now he sends a letter kissing her ass.


Here's hoping someone can provide some evidence that "petitions" will influence even a single vote in the US Congress.

Just saying "Cleve said so," or "GetEqual said so," or "Courage Campaign said so," isn't evidence - these groups make a living with these stunts. I fully support non-profits earning their keep, but we really need to insist they do something effective."

Well, Andrew, you want me to provide evidence that this petition will have an effect -- before the petition is subscribed and submitted?

Ultimately, the true test of effectiveness of all efforts on ENDA is this and only this:

The bill is passed and signed into law.

Anything short of that will demonstrate that our efforts were, in fact, ineffective.

That being said, I am doing everything I can think of that seems, in my experience, to be useful in that effort.

If you have a useful suggestion, let me know, because I'd be happy to do that too.

The only suggestion from you that I won't take is the suggestion to stop doing anything. And that seems to be your suggestion. Please clarify.

Andrew, if you believe that HARASSING and IRRITATING doesn't work why on earth do you continue doing this very thing yourself?

WackoTheSane | March 24, 2010 9:50 PM

I signed and have called my rep who happens to be a co-sponsor. I also went a visited him last May and had a meeting with his staffer who is his point on ENDA.

@AndrewW well we do know that doing nothing does not work.

People haven't been doing "nothing," Wacko - they've been doing things that don't work. They might make you feel effective, but they are NOT effective.

Less than 10% of the LGBT community participates or contributes. That's because they've figured out that these little stunts or HRC's waste of hundreds of millions in "lobbying" doesn't make any difference.

If these stunts change minds - provide some evidence. If they really are effective, it should be easy provide some proof.

Right on, Wacko, doing nothing is a sure-fire recipe for nothing getting done.

Does Nancy Pelosi know that you want this signed? I don't know. I know that groups that lobby Congress are more likely to get bills passed. Your representative doesn't know which promise matters to you. Squeaky wheels can get the grease.

How does not contacting your representatives, Nancy Pelosi and others help?

Emails are essentially free and phone calls cost little. Do it.

I'm with you, Geekgirl. While our voices are sometimes ignored, it appears that this is, miraculously, after being declared dead a dozen times, going to come to a vote.

That means we must make our voices heard. If never before, now is the time.

Andrew's a little bit right: it's very hard to tell what is effective. So we must do anything and everything we can to try and break through the noise in Washington.

What do we want? And when do we want it?

Does Nancy Pelosi know that you want this signed? I don't know. I know that groups that lobby Congress are more likely to get bills passed. Your representative doesn't know which promise matters to you. Squeaky wheels can get the grease.

How does not contacting your representatives, Nancy Pelosi and others help?

Emails are essentially free and phone calls cost little. Do it.

There are 260 million adults in the US and 170 million are registered voters.

In order to force or inspire Pelosi, to act on ENDA, how many signatures are enough? 10% of the voters or 17 million? More? Less?

This doesn't help and it doesn't work.

NO Member of Congress, during the last 40 years, has ever suggested that a "petition drive" has changed their mind or vote. They never even said it influenced them in any way.

So, why do this? To make you believe you are effective. It's part of the non-profit-LGBT-political-advocacy-business. The ones who are suggesting you do this are being paid to make you believe it is effective.

It's time for some evidence. If this does work or even help, providing the evidence should be easy.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 24, 2010 11:19 PM

There are also approximately 150 threads on TBP from last month AndrewW.

In order to force or inspire people to think the same thoughts you do, to act like a nutcase, how many posts are enough? 5 times per thread? More? Less?

This doesn't help and it doesn't work.

NO Registered user of TBP, during the last month, has ever suggested that an "AndrewW mono-meme" has changed their mind or vote. They never even said it influenced them in any way.

So, why do this? To make you believe you are effective. It's part of the personal-obsession-through-online-pedantry-business. The ones who are suggesting you do this are being paid to make you believe it is effective.

It's time for some evidence from YOU AndrewW. If this does work or even help, providing the evidence should be easy.

You could have just said you have no evidence that this Petition Drive can be helpful or effective.

If accountability for Movement tactics and/or resources isn't important to you, saying that is enough.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 24, 2010 11:44 PM

You could just go deal with your personal issues in an appropriate venue.

Andrew, answer the gentleman's question. Is there any evidence, any scintilla of evidence, that you are effective? Given that none of your ideas has been adopted, by anyone, anywhere, aren't you a living, breathing contradiction? An oxymoron?

Andrew, you're missing the point of these actions. It's not that one individual act in and of itself turns the tide. A brick is not a wall. But many actions make a campaign. People do get elected. Bills do get passed.

You keep calling, loudly and obnoxiously, for evidence, evidence, evidence, that this one thing is going to do the trick.

You're just barking up the wrong tree.

No, Jillian. I have never called for "one thing" to do the trick. I will repeat what I believe is the responsibility of any individual or organization that is seeking participation of the LGBT Community:

What is the evidence, justification or rationale for each and every tactic, method or strategy?

The "wall" metaphor doesn't fit Jillian. Lots of bricks just scattered about don't make a wall. The LGBT Movement has very few tactics, all used over-and-over-and-over for decades. You keep ignoring that information because it is more important for you to "feel good" than do good.

You and Cleve and GetEqual asked us to sign this Petition. You can tell us why it will be helpful or effective. You should care that much about our time.

We're going to learn stop wasting people's time and give them something effective to do, after leaders and promoters in the LGBT-Rights Industry embrace accountability.

Please stop rejecting the idea that tactics should be held accountable Jillian. Maybe it's been decades of the "blind leading the blind" but that has to stop. We're beginning to see, you must, too.

I was ahead of the curve on this one. I signed it this morning.

I'm not a USAian, so am unable to sign.

I can blog about it though, and encourage others to sign it.

Jillian, I have signed it and passed it on to Facebook friends as well. It is worth doing.

As for Andrew, I am glad to see him being once more challenged for his constant negativity and saying things don't work. It seems that is his sole purpose for being on these posts. I have asked him to offer a positive suggestion but he nevers answer my request. I do not think his comments are helpful to this site or the GLBT community and it's struggle for equality. If all you ever do is say "that does not work" you are a force of negativity and not offering solutions.

Those individuals or organizations promoting tactics have a responsibility to determine if they are effective and to offer evidence.

You will notice, regarding this Petition Drive, nobody has offered any evidence for its effectiveness. We're not sheep. Nine out of ten in our community already know this is a waste of time. If it is actually effective, where is the precedent? Where is the evidence that Petitions are effective?

If it cannot be substantiated, or even justified, we shouldn't waste our time and money.


You admitted to "not knowing" if this Petition Drive would be effective. But, you engage people in the effort anyway. That's the problem.

During the last few decades hundreds of "petitions" have been used by groups to influence legislation. THAT is your evidence. If you analyzed that data before suggesting another feel-good stunt, you would have known it would have NO EFFECT at all.

You continue to suggest it's better to "do something" than to ever figure out "what works." This attitude is pervasive in the LGBT Community and it explains why we don't make any progress. This "hope it sticks" mentality is beneath the talent and creativity of our community.

Those that offer "tactics, methods and solutions" have an obligation to justify their use. They have to convince US, that they are effective. You believe it is acceptable for you and your GetEqual children to "demand accountability from HRC" and their "lap dog lobbying efforts," but you don't have that same responsibility?

The ignorance cop-out is just plain lazy, Jillian. I expected more from you. I expect you to try to determine whether or not something will be effective, BEFORE you ask people to participate.

Is this all you know how to say?
Produce evidence that they don't work, since you're so into it.
Further, bring forth an idea that the evidence shows does work.

Otherwise, go play somewhere else.

Last September, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission delivered a Petition to "Stop Healthcare Legislation" to the US Congress.

It contained 1.2 million signatures.

How effective was that petition?


Maybe they needed 12 million signatures?

It should would be helpful to know how many signatures would move Pelosi. Must be in the millions, otherwise what's the point?

All I see from you is decrying any idea put forth. You never bring any evidence to bear, despite asking for it and you never have another solution.

As for evidence that the tactics do work. Well, how's this? There are now many states where there are housing and/or employment protections. There are a handful of states that now have either civil unions or same sex marriage. There are openly gay politicians. There's the Matthew Shepard Act. There has been progress, so the tactics being employed work.

In any area you find progress, it is because the people have changed. It is because the cultural conversation has changed.

That is evidence of the world changing, including America. Old ideas are dying with older generations. Almost ALL of the verifiable progress we have seen in the last 20 years is directly related to the people in those specific areas. For instance, Massachusetts is dramatically different than Oklahoma. Urban areas are much more supportive than rural areas.

We know that we need to change the cultural conversation, but we do almost nothing about that. Instead, we spend time trying to convince a small number of politicians, believing that will change everything. Laws and political victories do not change minds - most times they create additional animosity.

Conversation with our neighbors, friends, associates and even strangers is very effective. Television, movies, music and other art forms are very effective. Individuals taking a stand, like the 10 year old in Arkansas that won't pledge allegiance to the flag until we have our equality, is very effective.

ALL of those things have been analyzed and the direct benefit is very apparent. We must do the same with all of our tactics. We should do that as soon as possible - mid-terms look poised to set us back (politically) for another 8-10 years.

I appreciate your comment.

I vote to simply ignore and not reply to a single thing Andrew says. For all I know he is a plant here to try and derail ENDA. I don't have proof of that but I also don't have proof he isn't. He seems more ANTI-PRO than PRO.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 25, 2010 1:51 PM

That could be Dana, but I think his issues may be psychological in nature.

I only have a B.A. in Psychology but the obsessive, aggressive compulsivity of Andrew's posts TBP wide, combined with his unwillingness (or is it incapacity?) to respond to anyone else's questions along with his unwillingness to identify himself and share any special qualifications in LGBT activism he purports to have, his insinuations about donating money to various causes and studies, makes his issues present as psychological in nature.

Well, conspiracy theories are much easier than just accepting accountability.

You've made yourself clear that you don't believe any evidence or rationale is necessary for these stunts. Let's leave it at that. There is no need to emulate the Tea Party by making silly claims about my efforts. It's also very unbecoming.

Juston Thouron Juston Thouron | March 25, 2010 10:38 PM

Andrew, read my response to your post on the "Surprise...equality." thread.

I agree, Dana.
Seems like he has issues with transfolk doing anything on this site.

Signed, and posted to facebook.

In these threads I'm reminded about the old saying regarding advertising. People know that half of their ad budget is wasted, but they can never tell which half. I suspect political activism is similar in that regard. We can never be sure about what individual strategy works and what doesn't so we use all the tools we can think of in combination. This is what was done for previous civil rights battles that were eventually won for those who demanded change so we need to do the same.

Instead of spending a whole lot of energy arguing against these efforts we need to think of new ones to add to the tried and true.

OR, we could figure out which one DO work. It's not that hard.

Andrew is so interested in not wasting time???? He wastes tons of it spewing the same stuff over and over. I agree that he has a major problem and that we should ignore him if he cannot be blocked from this site. He very well could be a plant to try to stop us from doing what we feel is best. Nice try but it won't work just because it is repeated ad nauseum by one naysayer.

Again, no one has provided any evidence that Petitions are effective. Cleave, Jillian, GetEqual and even The Courage Campaign reject the simple principle of accountability.

That's a shame. Because many who have commented here will continue to engage in the feel good stunts and only think they are helping.

Several people have emailed me regarding this Petition effort. I appreciate their comments because they have been a sincere effort to improve our movement and in doing so, improve our chances. Several even suggested that when we do a "petition drive" or we "march" or we even "blog-swarm," unless we do so in significant numbers (that really matter), we just make ourselves look even smaller and less significant.

If, instead of answering these important questions, we attack people for just asking them, we never get to the real work required. We never get to design and implement a winning strategy.

I have never insulted anyone on Bilerico or even suggested that someone stop doing what they're doing. I have simply asked about accountability.

During the lengthy history of our movement we have never embraced accountability or done the research to find out what is our best investment in both time and money. Until we do that, we will continue to be disorganized and disillusioned.

I hope Cleve and Jillian decide to provide some evidence for the value of this petition drive. "Not knowing" isn't good enough. Endorsement isn't good enough. People asking for our investment of time and/or money need to provide some rationale for its value and effectiveness.

It's important.

Thank-you to those that honored these important questions with sincere consideration. That, IS helpful.

Here are some of my thoughts on other things we might be able to do and would love to hear your thoughts.

1) Urge Huffington Post to at least do one article referring to the need to get ENDA moving and to get it passed.

2) Create an online list of people who we need to call and email urging them to consider supporting ENDA

3) Chain ourselves to the gate at the whitehouse. Well, not sure about that. well, maybe. :)

I am really upset at the Huffington Post for being so silent about ENDA.

Grace Annam | March 26, 2010 3:22 PM
Those individuals or organizations promoting tactics have a responsibility to determine if they are effective and to offer evidence.

Actually, they don't. They can put it out there, and people can do with it what they will. You chose to heckle. I chose to sign. I could have chosen to do that without saying word one to you or anyone else.

Bring something constructive to the table, AndrewW, or shut up. I've been reading this site for only a few weeks, and I'm already past tired with your unceasing negativity.

As we explain to our children, there's constructive critique, which improves something, and then there's making someone feel small so that you can feel bigger, which just tears other people down.

Guess which one you do.


You are correct - you are free to waste your time.

But, GetEqual is trying to raise money from our community. Unless they can substantiate the value of their stunts, they will fail.

There is nothing negative about raising the issue of accountability. It's only negative to ignore it.