Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Blogswarm: Demand LGBT Employment Rights Today

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | March 18, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: blogswarm, employment non-discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, Nancy Pelosi, Pelosi, Speaker

Note from Bil: The Bilerico Project is participating in a blogswarm today with Daily Kos, Open Left, Americablog, Towleroad, Pam's House Blend, Joe My God, Michelangelo Signorile, David Mixner, Daily Gotham, Culture Kitchen, Taylor Marsh, PageOneQ, Dan Savage, GoodAsYou, and many others. We're asking our readers to contact Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ask that she move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (HR 3017) to a floor vote. Contact info at the end of the article.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, first introduced in 1994, would prohibit job discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. But LGBT people have never been able to achieve the enactment of the bill, known by the acronym of "ENDA".

Last year, the Administration's highest ranking gay official, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry, indicated that ENDA was highest priority on the LGBT civil rights agenda.

"If we can get ENDA enacted and signed into law, it is only a matter of time before all the rest happens," he said. "It is the keystone that holds up the whole bunch, and so we need to focus our energies and attention there."

Hearings were held last Fall in the House and in the Senate to demonstrate the need for the bill, and testimony was heard on the severe unemployment, underemployment and harassment experienced by LGBT workers. Witnesses testified to the scientific studies demonstrating this.

But nothing has happened. Click here to find out why and join us in swarming Speaker Pelosi's office.

Why We Need ENDA And Why It's So Hard To Get

The reason that workers need this protection is that the LGBT community is a relatively small minority, probably around 5% of the U.S. population, and there are many people with prejudices against them. This is also one reason that the bill has had difficulties in Congress: the minority in need of protection from discrimination are drowned out by the many bigots.

Civil rights, by definition, are needed most by those against whom there is most prejudice.

Surveys over the last fifteen years show that 16% to 68% of LGBT people surveyed reported experiencing employment discrimination. Preliminary results from a major survey of transgender workers show 97% reported harassment on the job and 26% lost their jobs because of their gender identity.

What's the Holdup?

Various sponsors promised that the bill would move to a vote in August, September, October, and November of 2009. But in order to go to a vote, the bill had to pass through the House Committee on Education and Labor via a "markup" procedure. Markup was finally scheduled for November 18, 2009. But at the last minute, the markup was postponed, and has still not been rescheduled.

Initially, the Committee said that some technical language required tweaking, ostensibly to insure that plaintiffs could not recover too much money or attorney fees, and to prevent lawsuits based on inadvertent discrimination. But it has become increasingly clear that something else is at work.

A clue to the inaction: Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly told Democrats that she would not move controversial bills. Meanwhile, the House Committee has stated its readiness to move, but is waiting for a signal from Speaker Pelosi.

Why We Need To Demand ENDA Now

We know that Speaker Pelosi is sympathetic to our cause. Clearly, she needs encouragement, because she won't commit to giving the signal to move forward. Meanwhile, LGBT Americans continue to suffer discrimination and harassment with no recourse. Why should we accept mere lip service?

President Obama famously said in a campaign speech that "Power concedes nothing without a fight."

The quote is from an oration Frederick Douglass gave on August 4, 1857 speaking about the emancipation of West India. The complete quote is very powerful in context, and is germane to the subject at hand (emphasis mine):

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get. If we ever get free from all the oppressions and wrongs heaped upon us, we must pay for their removal. We must do this by labor, by suffering, by sacrifice, and, if needs be, by our lives, and the lives of others.

By the end of the Civil War, and by the end of the 1960's civil rights movement, Douglass's evaluation proved true time and time again.

We demand that LGBT people receive the same job rights as other people: to be able to get and keep a job based only on relevant factors, like job performance, and not on irrelevant criteria, like sexual orientation or gender identity.

There is a majority in both Houses of Congress in favor of ENDA. Now is the time to move it.

In 30 states across America, there is no law against firing someone based on his or her sexual orientation, and the same is true in 38 states for gender identity.

Will you join with us in asking that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people be protected from job discrimination?

Please call Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 202-225-4965. Ask that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HR 3017, move to a vote.

Please be polite, but firm.

After you call, please tell us how the call went by clicking here. If you get a busy signal or hang up, let us know that too.

If you want more information on Speaker Pelosi's position on ENDA as stated by her office, you can find it here

Let's work together to let Speaker Pelosi know that we want action now!

At the end of the day, we will post a round-up of how the day went. Stay tuned.

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Thanks for organizing all of this, Jillian. I can't wait to see how today turns out.

Thanks for all your support, Bil! You created this platform and gained the respect of all those media types. I'm just riding on your coattails, and happy to.

The first time I called I got a busy signal, but I got through on the second try. The phone was answered by a very polite young woman, who transferred me to a voice mail. I left a 20-25 second message urging her to bring this historic vote to the floor. I mentioned how much we in the GLBT community appreciate her leadership, and this would certainly add to her legacy as the first female speaker of the house. (A little ego stroking never hurts!) Have a great day!
Manassas, VA

Thank you, David! I ask that you, and other supporters, let us know about the results of your calls at http://getequal.org/getenda so we can get an accurate picture of how many people supported this action.

Thank you for standing up for our rights.

Thanks, Kat, for your bit o' swarm! :)

Jane Austen | March 18, 2010 10:13 AM

I called Pelosi's office. Got voice mail. Left message asking that she bring the bill to a floor vote.

Number is busy, busy, busy! Do we have another way?

If it is busy try leaving a message on her contact form. Then keep trying to call. :)


Do we have another way? Depends. How badly do you want ENDA?

Do we have another way? Depends. How much do you want ENDA?

I called on Tuesday, should I call again today?

Should you call again, Greg? Yes, yes, yes! Call until she commits to moving ENDA. Thank you for taking action and standing together for our rights.

Thanks to all involved for doing this. I called, got a busy signal several times before getting through, after about half an hour of attempts. Someone answered, but before I got more than a few words out, I was sent to voice mail with no comment from the live personm beyond the greeting.

I feel as if I've been writing and calling about ENDA for a very long time, which, of course, many of us have. This effort is a great opportunity to make many voices heard.

The guy finally answered the phone. I told him what I had to say, he mumbled something, then thanked me for my call.

Greg, thanks for calling again, even though it's a pain in the butt, and you were treated rudely. Perhaps they need this lesson in participatory democracy?

Awesome, Dana, thanks for posting the Google search. I want to make sure I include all those who participated in my wrap up post this afternoon.

I'm so happy to see that our community and allies are taking ENDA so seriously even in the face of all the other things happening in DC.

Hey Jill, Thanks for doing this. Mom, Adele and I all called and left our msgs. I was transferred to the answering machine but spoke to a person first. Let's keep those lines jammed with support so Speaker Pelosi does the right thing!

I will be reposting my "Pass ENDA" video on my blog once again with a new opening paragraph. If anyone else wants to post it or use it, it can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6-83gbGulo

bigolpoofter | March 18, 2010 2:54 PM

Called Pelosi's office and my own House member Steny Hoyer. Too bad I couldn't get in my own tales of hostile treatment by employers, including a major federal contractor.

Thanks for making that call, bigolpoofter. You can always email her if you want to get the story in.

Just wanted to give a shout out to Rebecca Juro and AJ Lopp for their quote sleuthing!

This an awesome idea, Jillian, and it's great to see so much participation.

My blogswarm contribution, as well as my reaction to the Susan Stanton doc, should be popping up in about half an hour or so. Yes, both in the same post, with a little media commentary thrown in for good measure. Big picture time.

After trying 3-4 times, I finally got through. I got a voice mail and left a message. I know someone who's transgender son lost his job and has not been able to find decent employment. I don't know what will happen to him when his unemployment runs out.

Great idea. Still trying to get through, so it must be working.

Check this video outside of Speaker Pelosi's office in San Francisco - sit-in about to begin It's being live twittered @getequal http://tinyurl.com/y9oplrx

I tried to get through for about 20 mins this morning and for about 20 minutes during lunch (3:00 DC time). Couldn't get through once. All busy signals.

You already know what I think about Pelosi.

I still haven't been able to get through.

Andrés Rivera | March 18, 2010 6:32 PM

Apoyo vuestra causa, y vuestra lucha.
Exigimos respeto,inserción laboral y politicas de apoyo.

Andrés Rivera
Presidente Organización de Transexuales por la Dignidad de la Diversidad-OTD


My Bit. Even foreigners with high US readership should be a part of this.

WackoTheSane | March 18, 2010 7:56 PM

I called but it was after hours and her Voice Mail box was full. Called Jim Cooper who is my House Member, thanked him for being a Cosponsor and asked him to help move ENDA to the floor.

Didn't even know about this until this evening. Called and her voice mail is full. So I sent an email. I think we should encourage people to keep calling until ENDA comes to the house floor.
I plan to call tomorrow morning.

SkepticalCicada | March 19, 2010 1:39 AM

Good luck, but I view this as a waste of time.

As predicted, adding detailed gender identity and transition provisions to ENDA has rendered the bill realistically unpassable for the foreseeable future. (And, yes, I've seen the naive spreadsheets about "confirmed" votes. Ask the advocates of the public health care option about that kind of thing.)

I support anyone who wants to lobby, but my view is it will not succeed until public attitudes toward transgender people improve. The task now is for Ts to make themselves known to and to try to educate members of Congress. Until that happens, the bill is dead, and it just doesn't happen overnight.

As for me, I'll put my activist time and energy into something more achievable in the short term, like DADT repeal. Ts won the insertion of everything they demanded into an otherwise passable bill and, having done so, have rendered the bill realistically unpassable. Congratulations. No, really. Congratulations. The tactics of claiming the change wouldn't affect passage--always a lie--and bigot-baiting anyone who was an incrementalist succeeded. You've managed to sabotage the bill for the foreseeable future while we wait for society to catch up in its transgender attitudes.

But my attitude as a result is simply, "You broke it; you own it." It's up to you to fix the political mess by changing the attitudes and educating Congress on trans matters. I wish you success. And I mean that sincerely. I just won't be participating until passage seems realistic.