Liberty and Justice for ALL

Five words that close the pledge of allegiance; five words that cannot be ignored.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT)rights organizations across the United States, with the surprising exception of the Human Rights Campaign, withdrew their support Monday from a landmark gay civil rights bill after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., pulled transgender people from the legislation that would protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination.

For more than a decade GLBT activists have been trying to gain support in Congress for nationwide employment nondiscrimination protections through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).  Similar in scope to civil rights legislation passed in the 1960’s, this legislation was initially designed to provide employment protection for all GLBT Americans.  The legislation has a very simple premise; all people should have the ability to work regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

As a former Chair of the Orange County Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Services Center and current Chair of the Eleanor Roosevelt Stonewall Democratic Club, I have to say; ENDA legislation that does not include gender identity protection is simply unacceptable. I cannot understand why Pelosi and Frank are willing to sell transgender individuals down the river to pass a piece of legislation that the President is certain to veto.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on October 2, 2007:

Pelosi and Frank, however, fear the inclusion of gender identity will kill the overall bill – again denying gays and lesbians protection against job discrimination.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, issued conflicting statements in reaction to the turmoil. The first, issued Friday, declared her personal support for including transgender people in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act but asserted she would stick by her decision to drop them from the bill to give it a greater chance of passage.

On Monday, the speaker issued a new statement saying, “After discussions with congressional leaders and organizations supporting passage” of the bill, committee and floor votes on the bill had been postponed to “allow proponents of the legislation to continue their discussions with members in the interest of passing the broadest possible bill.”

Congressman Frank argued; “The question facing us – the LGBT community and the tens of millions of others who are active supporters of our fight against prejudice – is whether we should pass up the chance to adopt a very good bill because it has one major gap,” Frank said. “I believe that it would be a grave error to let this opportunity to pass a sexual orientation nondiscrimination bill go forward, not simply because it is one of the most important advances we’ll have made in securing civil rights for all Americans in decades, but because moving forward on this bill now will also better serve the ultimate goal of including people who are transgender than simply accepting total defeat today.”

Almost 100 GLBT advocacy groups from across the nation sent a letter to each member of the House stating; “very clearly and unequivocally that we refuse to accept and in fact we oppose any legislation that leaves any part of our community behind, particularly the transgender community.”

The GLBT community has been divided on the issue of inclusiveness over and over again in their history of seeking basic civil rights protections.  In California, the route of seeking protections for some rather than all has denied protection for transgender individuals for more than a decade. That course was wrong then and it is wrong now. United we should stand, for divided we shall surely fail.

Click Here to learn more about ENDA and the strong support for including transgender people in the legislation.

Please urge your member of the House of Representatives to support the inclusion of transgender people in ENDA. Urge them to support Liberty and Justice for ALL Americans. 

  1 comment for “Liberty and Justice for ALL

  1. Andrew Davey
    October 4, 2007 at 11:12 am

    You’re totally right, Chris. This reminds me of the strategy of Latino rights groups in the early 20th century to gain acceptance and equality. They tried to convince the lily white powers that be that Latinos weren’t “colored” like black people, but just as white as white people. It occasionally worked, but more often they were laughed off. Only when the Civil Rights Movement became a strong force and African-Americans were finally winning the fight for equal rights did Latino groups realize that they were better off working with other oppressed minorities to stop the oppression (than trying to deny they were part of an oppressed minority).

    And now, we’re facing a similar dilemma in the LGBT community. While we gays and lesbians try to convince the straight power structure that we’re just as “normal” as they are, we so often throw our “abnormal” bisexual and transgender friends under the bus. Well, you know what? THAT’S JUST PLAIN WRONG! Either we all win equal rights for all, or no one really “wins” here.

    I hope Speaker Pelosi, Rep. Frank, and all the other supposedly “pro-equality” members of Congress remember that if anti-discrimination protections do not extend to ALL OF US in the LGBT community, then none of us is truly safe from discrimination.

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