5 of the 12 House Democrats from Texas have failed to sign on as co-sponsors of ENDA

Cuellar, Green, Ortiz, Rodriguez voted in favor of 2007 bill

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, currently has 202 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the Human Rights Campaign. The bill needs 216 votes to pass the House.

Five House Democrats who are uncommitted on ENDA — and haven’t signed on as co-sponsors — are from Texas. Four of those five voted in favor of ENDA in 2007, when the bill didn’t include gender identity.

HRC this week unveiled Countdown 2010, a grassroots initiative aimed at urging congressional action on both ENDA and  repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell.” And HRC listed Texas as one of the states where it will be focusing its efforts on ENDA.

This is a likely indication that HRC believes these five Democrats need to hear from their constituents about supporting a fully inclusive ENDA — and that they need to hear from them soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised a vote on ENDA by the end of the year.

With that, here are phone numbers for the Washington offices of the five House Democrats from Texas who haven’t signed on as ENDA co-sponsors. If you live in one of their districts, you may want to give them a call. You may also want to contact them via the Countdown 2010 website. All except for Chet Edwards voted in favor of ENDA in 2007.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City, San Antonio, Seguin): 202-225-1640

Rep. Chet Edwards (Waco, Bryan, Cleburne): 202-225-6105

Rep. Gene Green (Houston, Baytown): 202-225-1688

Rep. Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi, Brownsville): 202-225-7742

Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (San Antonio, Eagle Pass, Fort Stockton, Del Rio): 202-225-4511

—  John Wright

Open letter to Pelosi

Calling on the Speaker of the House to keep her promise on ENDA

We are writing to express how extremely troubled we are that the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) has not yet been scheduled for a vote by the full House of Representatives. We believe a floor vote must be scheduled for ENDA immediately.

It would be devastating for LGBT workers for this Congress to not complete its work on ENDA before the end of this session.

ENDA would be historic in the number of LGBT people who would benefit from its passage. During this economic crisis, it is more important than ever to prohibit the often-impoverishing effects of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Most LGBT workers have no protections from workplace discrimination. ENDA would provide legal protection against discrimination nationally.

Over and over we have been promised that a vote would be scheduled on ENDA, and these promises have been repeatedly broken. In 29 states, it is still legal to fire someone solely because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. And in 38 states it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender.

The current version of the bill would outlaw discrimination on both sexual orientation and gender identity.

A 2006 study by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and the Transgender Law Center found that 60 percent of transgender people in San Francisco earn less than $15,300 per year; only 25 percent have a full-time job, and nearly 9 percent have no source of income.

Only 4 percent reported making more than $61,200, which is about the median income in the Bay Area.

More than half of local transgender people live in poverty, and 96 percent earn less than the median income. Forty percent of those surveyed don’t even have a bank account.

What this study reveals is that even in a city that is considered a haven for the LGBT community, transgender workers face profound employment challenges and discrimination.

A 2007 meta-analysis from the Williams Institute of 50 studies of workplace discrimination against LGBT people found consistent evidence of bias in the workplace. The analysis found that up to 68 percent of LGBT people reported experiencing employment discrimination, and up to 17 percent said they had been fired or denied employment.

Public opinion polling shows that Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of making sure LGBT Americans get the same employment opportunities as everyone else. In fact, the latest surveys shows that nearly 90 percent of Americans support workplace fairness for LGBT workers.

As you know, in a few weeks, Congress will finish it’s legislative business for the year so that they can return to their districts to run for re-election. Last month at a LGBT Pride event, Congresswoman Jackie Spier announced to the LGBT community that not only would we not get ENDA before the end of the legislative session, that she did not think we would get it for five years because we won’t have enough votes in Congress again to ensure passage.

It is ironic that Congress plans on leaving town and going home to campaign for their own jobs while leaving thousands of LGBT workers without protections for the next five years. When 90 percent of Americans support workplace fairness, it is challenging to believe that anyone fears a backlash from the voters.

The time to pass ENDA is now. The American people support it; the politicians promised it. No more broken promises. We demand that a vote be scheduled now.

FROM: SF Pride at Work, One Struggle, One Fight, GetEqual, Harvey Milk Democratic Club, El/La, Transgender Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and National Pride at Work.

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

GetEQUAL NOW to protest anti-gay Texas GOP platform at Republican event in Dallas next week

When I caught up with Michael Robinson this morning, he was on his way to perform 10 hours of community service stemming from his arrest a few months ago in San Francisco at a protest related to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Robinson was arrested in the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during an action organized by GetEQUAL. Since then, he and fellow local activist CD Kirven have split off from GetEQUAL and formed thier own group, GetEQUAL NOW, which is aimed at bringing more diversity to the LGBT equality movement. (Incidentally, Robinson said GetEQUAL leaders have demanded that the new group use a different name, but he has no plans to change it.)

I was calling Robinson because I noticed that GetEQUAL NOW is preparing to stage its first action, and it looks like they’ve picked a good one. According to the Facebook page, they’ll be protesting anti-gay language in the Texas GOP platform next week outside the Blue Mesa restaurant across from NorthPark Center.

As best I can tell, that’s where conservative radio host Mark Davis of WBAP will be speaking on immigration at a meeting of the Dallas Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly.

Robinson noted that the GOP platform also calls for anti-immigration legislation similar to the bill that recently passed in Arizona. And he noted that even GOP groups like the Republican Liberty Caucus have come out against the anti-gay language in the GOP platform.

Robinson acknowledged that the anti-gay language in the platform is not new, but he said it’s time to do something about it before GOP legislators decide to act on it.

“Somebody needs to get mad,” he said. “They need to change that platform. It’s ridiculous, it’s stupid and it’s hurtful.”

Robinson said while many LGBT people are aware of the anti-gay language, they’re passive about it and choose instead to complain about President Barack Obama.

“We’re going to make some noise on this one,” Robinson said. “This is crazy. We’re calling them out, and we’re serious, we’re not playing.”

Rob Schlein, presdient of Dallas Log Cabin Republicans, told me earlier today he won’t be participating in the protest. Log Cabin has been working to remove the anti-gay language from the platform for several years, and the group issued an official statement about the controversy over the platform earlier today. Asked whether he would attend the protest, Schlein said: “No. Our disagreement is focused on the anti-gay elements and the harsh language. This protest takes a more broader vision of opposition.”

Here’s Log Cabin’s full statement:

Recent attention has been given to the Republican Party of Texas and what many consider are the anti-gay planks in its 2010 Platform.  Although these planks are not new, the attention is.  From the Dallas Voice to bloggers all over the nation, Republicans are being painted as anti-gay and intolerant.

At the Texas Republican Party State Convention we warned our fellow delegates of the consequences of including extremist language in the party platform regarding gay and lesbian Texans.  For years, Log Cabin Republicans (a group representing gay, lesbian and like minded Republicans) has submitted resolutions to remove the extremist language at the precinct and state senatorial convention levels.  Emails were also sent to every member of the state platform committee imploring them to either remove the passages or reword them, and  Log Cabin Republicans Dallas offered suggested substitute language.  Those resolutions and emails were ignored by the Platform Committee at the state convention.

Language such as, “We believe that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders”, and language equating gay parents with child molesters and abusive parents is obviously not supported by the majority of Texans, rank and file Republicans or even people of faith.

We are regularly contacted by activist Republicans and Republican groups expressing their concern about the appalling language included in this document.  Many gay and lesbian business owners and professionals that are natural allies of the GOP sit on the sidelines at a time when we need their help more than ever.  Young Republicans and young evangelicals are often embarrassed by the antiquated statements in the platform. Worse yet, a recent fundraising drive by a left leaning Washington D.C. gay rights organization highlighted the language from the Texas Party Platform in a letter to its well healed contributors.

The enemies of the Republican Party will do anything during this election to distract voters from the dangerous consequences of their explosive expansion of government and unsustainable deficits.  Republican fiscal and pro-free enterprise policies can save our country.  Now is not the time to be shooting ourselves in the foot simply to pacify passionate but wrongheaded elements of our own party.

The party platform is controlled by a handful of party activists.  We call on Republicans at all levels to publicly repudiate many of the extremist positions taken in the Texas Party Platform.  It is time for Republican office holders to stop pointing fingers while claiming to have “never read the state platform” and clearly state their agreement or disagreement with such foolish language.

We are happy this language is receiving wide exposure since we are certain it cannot survive the light of scrutiny. That said, we also believe the stakes are too high and Log Cabin Republicans is committed to working toward Republican victory despite the language in the platform.

—  John Wright