BUSINESS BRIEFS: AA endorses ENDA, Allstate recognizes Long

AA endorses ENDA

FORT WORTH — American Airlines has again advocated the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The airline supported the bill in 2008 and 2009 in correspondence with congressional leaders. In its current letter of endorsement, American Airlines wrote:

“On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group — GLEAM.

“Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

Allstate recognizes Long

Allstate Insurance Company has recognized Alex Long, one of its gay agency owners, with the Chairman’s Award for high standards in customer satisfaction, customer retention and financial services sales.

Alex Long Agency is one of about 14 percent of Allstate agency owners and personal financial representatives in Texas to reach this level of achievement.

Long participates in the Lone Star Ride, is a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and volunteers with Resource Center Dallas. His agency is at 2700 N. O’Connor Road in Irving.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Rick Perry deluded; Okla. sees big jump in gay couples; American backs ENDA

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gov. Rick Perry is apparently operating under the delusion that he’s a minister and the state of Texas is his church, according to the transcript of a speech Perry made to East Texas business leaders in May to raise money for his “day of prayer and fasting” in Houston on Aug. 6. “At 27 years old, I knew that I had been called to the ministry,” Perry said, according to the transcript obtained by the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was gonna have. I still am. I truly believe with all my heart that God has put me in this place at this time to do his will.”

2. New Census data released today shows a big increase in the number of same-sex couples in Oklahoma. Anti-gay State Rep. Sally Kern says she isn’t surprised but finds the situation “regrettable”: “I think the influence of the church plays a factor here, we have more churches today … that are saying homosexuality does not go against biblical truth,” Kern said. “Another factor is homosexuality is being taught in our schools as a normal and acceptable lifestyle, so when that happens, you are going to have more young people coming out of school who have a more favorable attitude towards homosexuality.”

3. Fort Worth-based American Airlines has again expressed support for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT people. In a letter to members of Congress, the airline writes: “On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group – GLEAM. Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay Marine from N. Texas reacts to court’s order halting DADT enforcement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. In the wake of Wednesday’s order from a federal appeals court halting enforcmeent of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” we checked in with a gay active-duty Marine from North Texas whom we profiled last year to see what the development means to him. Here’s what he said:

“I was VERY happy to hear that. I’m not really sure about what will happen next. I hope that the president and justice department will leave it at this and not push it to the Supreme Court. This law has gone on entirely too long already. Why keep something hanging on by a thread that we know is so close to being over? It wouldn’t make any sense. But like I said before, I will not be satisfied until there is a full repeal. I have came out to most people in my unit. So I don’t think there will be too much of a change for me except that I won’t have the thought of discharge lingering over my head, and I won’t have to hide my partner (he isn’t currently open with his unit).”

2. New York City will open clerk’s offices in all five boroughs on a Sunday — July 24 — so same-sex couples can marry on the first day it’s legal, The New York Times reports. We kept waiting for the quote from some tea party homophobe about wasting tax dollars and defiling the Lord’s Day, but it never came.

3. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill prohibiting workplace discrimination based on gender identity and expression on Wednesday, making Connecticut the 15th state to do so, Raw Story reports. As you can see from the map below, Texas remains one of about 30 states where you can still be legally fired for being gay or transgender. And let’s face it, that will never change until the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act is passed. Speaking of which, where the hell is ENDA?

—  John Wright

LISTEN: Gov. Beebe tells Stonewall Dems that Arkansas shouldn’t recognize their relationships

 

Gov. Mike Beebe became the first governor of Arkansas to address an LGBT group on Tuesday night, speaking to the Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas. Audio of Beebe’s speech is above.

Gov. Mike Beebe

On the question of relationship recognition, Beebe told the group he isn’t in favor of same-sex marriage or civil unions for Arkansas. Stonewall Arkansas President Eric McDaniel thanked the governor for his honesty.

The governor said he doesn’t believe employers should discirminatio based on sexual orientation, but he stopped short of endorsing a state law prohibiting it.

Someone also asked about a recent case of a family listing a same-sex partner in an obituary in an Arkansas newspaper. The paper removed the partner’s name before printing it. Beebe said he didn’t think a newspaper should be forced to print the name of a partner, even though obituaries in daily newspapers are paid advertisements.

It’s interesting to look at how news outlets in Arkansas treated Beebe’s speech in their headlines. The NPR affiliate referred to the governor speaking to a gay group. The more conservative newspapers touted the governor’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

—  David Taffet

ENDA: An 800-Pound Transgender Elephant – With Issues – In The Room

An 800-Pound Transgender Elephant Who Doesn’t Trust LGBT Congressmembers, Their Congressional Aides, And LGBT Civil Rights Organizations’ Policy Teams

Kerry Eleveld recently wrote a piece for Equality Matters — crossposted to Pam’s House Blend — entitled The False Choice: ENDA v. Marriage Equality. I read it, and had a visceral reaction when I read these paragraphs (no emphasis added):

[A]lthough I have asked a good number of questions about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)] and its prospects for a vote, I still can’t tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn’t happening with ENDA.

And here is where our community’s analysis must begin — we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues. Last year, when I asked people in our advocacy groups, staffers on the Hill, and lawmakers about the prospects for passing ENDA, I most commonly got no information or misinformation. As the bill continued to languish and the House committee vote was continually delayed, my questions were increasingly met with indignation and wholesale assurances that all was going according to plan. But ultimately, all I found was a brick wall when it came to identifying the hurdles.

I stopped reading the article when I read that, and just seethed.

My visceral reaction was this: I heard “It’s time to open up the discussion again as to whether gender identity should be part of ENDA” when I read the phrase “we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues.” That’s my filter; that’s my problem.

But let me set the WABAC (pronounced “wayback”) Machine back to 2004 to discuss some background history on transgender people and ENDA — the reason I (and I assume many other transgender people) have that filter. Transgender community history on ENDA starts significantly earlier than that (see Monica Roberts’ Transgriot post Why The Transgender Community Hates HRC for more history than I’ll include here), but to keep the long story relatively short I’ll start there.

By August of 2004, pretty much every LGBT community civil rights organization had came out with a statement to the effect of “We won’t support any version of ENDA unless it includes gender identity language for transgender people.” Well, every organization except the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

On August 3, 2004, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) release a press statement, entitled Transexual Menace, Others to Protest HRC, which began this way:

A handful of organizations will be demonstrating outside of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) at their Washington DC headquarters during its upcoming board meeting. Transsexual Menace is organizing the Unity Rally for Transgender Rights joined by other GLBT organizations to protest the HRC’s dubious efforts  on behalf of transgender inclusion in federal legislation. Members of groups such as the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), Pride at Work (PAW) and Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) will be

participating.

The demonstration will take place on Saturday, August 7, when the HRC boards convene to discuss whether to vote on supporting only transgender-inclusive federal legislation including the federal hate crime bill (LLEEA) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

“In a climate where the GOP is using scare tactics to erase the GLBT people from gaining civil rights, we believe that for the largest GLBT organization in our country to be playing these kinds of political games is not only divisive to our community but unconscionable,” said Ethan St. Pierre, organizer of the Transsexual Menace Event. “HRC is the largest GLBT national organization and when they support non-inclusive language in what should be trans-inclusive legislation it sends a clear message to Congress that we [transgenders] don’t matter and that our lives mean nothing!”

The HRC knew the Transexual Menace and allies were coming, and on August 7, 2004, the Gay City News reported the following in their article HRC Embraces Transgender Rights; Board vote signals more inclusive Capitol Hill strategy:

[More below the fold.]

On August 7, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national lobby for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, reversed its prior stance and announced it would support the main piece of congressional legislation addressing the needs of LGBT Americans only if the bill included protections for transgender people. The legislation, known as the Employment and Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has lingered in Congress without significant consideration for years. Officials at the Washington-based HRC announced their policy change after meeting with several transgender leaders during an annual board meeting.

“The Human Rights Campaign adopts a policy that we will only support ENDA if it is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” a statement from HRC said.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who spoke at Saturday’s pivotal board meeting, immediately hailed the HRC board’s decision. “We are now one big community,” Keisling said.

“When members of Congress see HRC’s resolve on this, they will know transgender protections must be part of ENDA,” Keisling said. “This will also empower the victims of discrimination to come forward, and give us the chance to educate the public on transgender issues,” she added.

The HRC’s then legislative director Christopher Labonte stated the following:

This is definitely a sea change. We are now moving forward with a united front, and the LGBT community will no longer be fractured as a result of ENDA.

Then HRC executive director Cheryl Jacques made this statement:

Cheryl JacquesPassing ENDA without gender identity and expression is like passing a copyright law that covers books and television shows but doesn’t cover digital music or videos. But ENDA is about people’s lives, not MP3s or DVDs. That’s why it’s so important that we have the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible.

She also stated this:

In early August [2004], HRC’s Board of Directors took the historic step of adopting a policy that HRC would not support a version of ENDA that doesn’t include gender identity or expression.

This isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s the pragmatic thing to do. We’re supporting a modernized and comprehensive bill that gives full protection to all of our community.

Fast forward to the Southern Comfort Conference in September 14, 2007, and HRC executive director Joe Solmonese made the following comment (emphasis added):

We try to walk a thin line in terms of keeping everything in play, and making sure that we move forward but always being clear that we absolutely do not support and in fact oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive, and we have sent that message loud and clear to the Hill.

Apparently without the HRC Board’s approval, Joe Solmonese got ahead of where the HRC was at on ENDA: whereas the HRC’s official policy was that they would not support any version of ENDA that didn’t include gender identity, Joe Solmonese publicly stated that the HRC would oppose any version of ENDA that didn’t include gender identity.

Then on September 27, 2007, House Democrats removed transgender employment protections from the main ENDA bill. On October 1, 2007, the HRC released the following statement:

Last night, the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors voted to reaffirm the 2004 policy supporting a fully inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Therefore, HRC will not support the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill. The board’s position articulates a process for continued dialogue with House leaders about strategies that have been put forth to, in the end, achieve passage of a fully inclusive ENDA.

“We are now faced with definitive Congressional action to move forward a version of the bill stripping gender identity. Though we support a fully inclusive ENDA, we acknowledge the legislative strategy put forth by Congressman Frank and the Democratic leadership to obtain a clear path towards an inclusive bill in the future,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We look forward to working with them to accomplish the goal all of us share – ending workplace discrimination against the entire GLBT community.”

“Since 2004, HRC has had in place a policy that supports only a fully inclusive version of ENDA and the Board of Directors voted to reaffirm that position,” Solmonese continued. “Therefore, we are not able to support, nor will we encourage Members of Congress to vote against, the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill. And will continue working with our allies in Congress to support a comprehensive, legislative strategy to achieve passage of a fully inclusive ENDA as quickly as possible.”

But of course — as most LGBT activists no doubt remember — even that position changed. On November 06, 2007, the HRC put out a press release that stated the following it its text:

“Since 2004, HRC has had in place a policy that supports only a fully inclusive version of ENDA and the Board of Directors voted to reaffirm that position,” Solmonese [said]. “Therefore, we are not able to support, nor will we encourage Members of Congress to vote against, the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill.”

The Leadership Conference On Civil Rights (LCCR) — the nation’s oldest, and largest, and civil and human rights coalition, to which the HRC is a key member organization — released this statement at roughly the same point in time as the 2007 HRC press release on ENDA. The LCCR statement said this in part:

As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature. With each significant step toward progress, the civil rights community has also faced difficult and sometimes even agonizing tradeoffs. We have always recognized, however, that each legislative breakthrough has paved the way for additional progress in the future. With respect to ENDA, we take the same view.

While we are greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully inclusive, our sense of frustration in this case is directed at those who would clearly prefer to see no one from the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community protected at all. We know the decision to pursue a narrower strategy was a very difficult one, and we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our Congressional allies over the years to advance the rights of all Americans – even when they are forced at times to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards.

As such, we urge you to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to oppose any floor amendments or motions that would undermine its protections.

And as most of us know, the sexual orientation only version of ENDA passed the House in early 2008, but the Senate never took up the bill — so ENDA died. ENDA was never sent to President Bush’s desk for veto.

Fast-forwarding yet again — this time to late March of 2009 — the HRC released a one more statement regarding the ENDA — this time in reference to the last Congress:

HRC Board ENDA Policy

It’s the policy of HRC that the organization will only support an inclusive ENDA. In 2007 House leadership informed us that there were insufficient votes to pass an inclusive bill, so they decided to vote on a sexual orientation only bill. We made a one time exception to our policy in 2007 because we strongly believed that supporting this vote would do more to advance inclusive legislation. We will not support such a strategy again. We look forward to Congress sending President Obama a fully inclusive ENDA for his signature.

Let’s be honest. Not very many trans people believe that March 2009 statement — it reads like unadulterated spin.

And too, let’s be very clear here on substance: in comparison to the statements of other LGBT civil rights non-profits on ENDA, the HRC’s policy statement is designed to be more weakly worded. Other LGBT civil rights non-profits have stated they’d oppose ENDA without the inclusion of gender identity or expression language while the HRC’s language of not support means that the HRC will theoretically be neutral on any ENDA that doesn’t include gender identity and expression language — not opposed opposed to any version of ENDA that isn’t fully inclusive.

The return to the HRC’s 2004-to-2007 ENDA policy, verses their 2007/2008 ENDA policy, certainly was an improvement. But, going back to the 2004-to-2007 policy really isn’t exactly a great place to start honest dialog about ENDA and transgender issues. And, their big presence on LGBT issues is touted on their About Us webpage:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

And too, there is the matter of the HRC’s flawed scorecard for the 110th Congress.

It matters that the organization is still sending the message that issues regarding gender identity and gender expression are not equal to issues to that of sexual orientation. And since the HRC is still a sizable presence in the beltway backrooms where discussions with legislators and legislative staff on ENDA occurs…well, for many reasons, including their transgender fail on ENDA 2007/2008, means that the vast majority of transgender community activists don’t trust the HRC to be an honest broker for transgender people and issues. In fact, many consider the HRC — and especially Joe Solmonese — to be a liar.

And beyond the HRC, the transgender community still stings over John Aravosis’ commentary on AmericaBlog regarding ENDA 2007/2008. Aravosis compared LGBT community organizations that opposed removal of gender identity from ENDA 2007/2008 to religious right bigots in his piece House Committee Passes ENDA, 27-21:

This is a historic vote (this is the GLB ENDA, the one we actually have the votes for, the one we’ve been working on for 30 years). All Republican amendments were defeated. Four Dems sided with Pat Robertson and the men at the Concerned Women for America and voted no (including Kucinich, Holt, Clark and Sanchez – ostensibly because they feel we should hold 25 million gays and lesbians hostage until America is ready to pass civil rights laws for somewhere between tens of thousands and a few hundred thousand transgender people), and three Rs voted yes (Castle, Biggert and Platts).

That wasn’t an single, isolated comment. For example, another statement that repeated this comparison is found in JUST IN: Pelosi agrees to hold vote on trans-inclusive ENDA when it has the votes, will move ahead with GLB ENDA next week:

What remains to be seen is whether the NGLTF and its allies will join James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Lou Sheldon and Pat Robertson in trying to kill ENDA.

Here we have a gay blogger with readership in the tens of thousands who argued — in loaded language — against transgender inclusion in ENDA.

And too, it’s not as if our gay representatives in Congress have been kind to transgender people. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) hasn’t engendered the trust of transgender community regarding ENDA over the years either.

Image: Integrated Male and Female Restroom Sign; Link: Pam's House Blend tag: 'Bathroom'Rep. Frank made this telephone statement for that Gay City News article referenced above prior to the HRC announcing its 2004 change of policy:

[ENDA] will never pass with trans-inclusive language while the Republicans are in control of Congress. They always scare people with stories about people with penises going into women’s showers.”

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality quoted Barney Frank as stating this in his piece Homosexual-Transgender Alliance Tested as ‘Trans’-Inclusive ENDA Falters on Capitol Hill:

There are workplace situations — communal showers, for example — when the demands of the transgender community fly in the face of conventional norms and therefore would not pass in any Congress. I’ve talked with transgender activists and what they want — and what we will be forced to defend — is for people with penises who identify as women to be able to shower with other women.

Rep. Frank gave people on the religious right, such as Peter LaBarbera, quotables regarding transgender people and public restrooms/public showers.

Just Out - Frankly Speaking Page 1In the Just Out article Frankly Speaking (subtitled U.S. Rep. Barney Frank to trans community: Get your own train, May 2, 2008), Representative Barney Frank spoke about ENDA 2007/2008. One of his “stir the pot” comments from the article was:

Part of the problem, I have to say, is this: I’ve never seen a worse job of lobbying done by the transgender community. They seem to think that all they had to do was to get the gay and lesbian community to say “OK.” I think they thought that this was a train, and that they were a car on the train. I said to them, “You’ve got to work this, you’ve got to lobby people.” They did a terrible job of lobbying, and so we didn’t have the votes.

I’ve talked to my transgender peers and other activists over during 2007 and 2008, and no activist had ever reported that Rep. Frank gave any such warning to him, her, or hir — the only ones I’m aware of who sounded any alarm to the transgender community regarding ENDA/hate crimes legislation was the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC). In May of 2007 — during their NTAC Transgender Lobby Days of May, 2007 — in some of the congressional offices had lobbied in they heard rumors that had apparently been floating around the Beltway since April, 2007: NTAC heard that gender identity and expression was going to be dropped from the main ENDA/hate crimes legislation bill . NTAC in turn mentioned that possibility to some transgender community e-groups that same month.

Rep. Frank also stated in that Just Out piece:

I understand the problem of having [transgender protections] put in the bill and taking it out. It would have been better not to have put it in the bill in the first place and to have two separate bills in the beginning…. Unfortunately, people in the trans community and their allies didn’t want to accept reality.

And…

Was it a mistake not to push for gay rights in the ’50s and ’60s? No, it just hadn’t occurred to people. Movements take time. There was not a lot of self-awareness of people being transgender in the ’80s and ’90s. You can’t artificially create these things; they come up. The transgender community organized and came forward, but it’s only been less than 10 years.

Let me make a note here: transgender people were in large part thrown out of the gay liberation movement in the early seventies by people of Rep. Frank’s generation. From History Professor Susan Stryker’s Know Your Transgender History:

1973 was a watershed year. Sentiments against transgender people participating in gay and feminist work reached a fever pitch. Sylvia Rivera was physically prevented from speaking at the Stonewall commemoration in New York. Beth Elliot, a lesbian transsexual woman who had once been vice president of the San Francisco chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis lesbian organization in San Francisco was ejected from the West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles, by vehemently anti-transgender feminist Robin Morgan, who divided the crowd on the transgender issue in much the same way that the issue is threatening to divide the LGBT community today. With the war in Viet Nam winding down for the United States, the androgynous hippy style of the “Freakin’ Fag Revolution” was replaced with the new macho of the “clone look.” With the successful removal of homosexuality as a psychopathology list in the psychiatric bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, gender-normative gay and lesbian people could say that they were healthy and transgender people were sick. And repression continued from the outside, too. Police planted narcotics in the office of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, framed them, and sent some of them to jail. It was a perfect storm, in which many progressive-minded people, self-righteously thinking they were being so advanced in their condemnation of transgender people, unwittingly marched in lock step with truly reactionary social forces.

Thirty years of advancing gay and feminist causes through solidarity with conservative definitions of gender and by trashing transgender people is what produces the seeming paradox of the right-wing Christian hate groups like Americans For Truth About Homosexuality actually quoting Barney Frank’s phobic attitudes about transgender people on the front page of their website.

You can watch highlights of Rep. Frank’s comments about transgender inclusion in his October 10, 2007 ENDA/Transgender Press Conference:

With his commentary on transgender people and ENDA made in May of 2008 and earlier, it was literally no surprise to me to read statements by Rep. Frank in Chris Geidner’s Metro Weekly piece Employment bill started strong, but is barely breathing at the close of the 111th Congress. Rep. Frank put the burden of the unpassed ENDA 2009/2010 bill on the backs of transgender people:

…Frank had a message for LGBT advocates, saying, ”In the interim what the community needs to do is educate on the transgender issue.”

The point was echoed by the Democratic leadership aide, who said ”there has not been the work done by the community in the Senate” to ensure the passage of an inclusive ENDA.

As Frank said, ”I would point out to you that they still have not been able to get transgender protections in liberal places. If you can’t do it in Massachusetts, New York and Maryland, it doesn’t get easier when you add in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.”

Frankly, after so many promises by Rep. Frank and other congressmembers in 2009 and 2010 about how ENDA was going to be marked up “soon,” at the end of the month, next February (2010) — well, you can read about the long history of broken promises on ENDA here. It didn’t appear to be an issue that would definitely kill the bill until the postmortem at the end of the 111th Congress., unless you consider this comment from Rep. Frank found in a January 13, 2010 piece in The Advocate:

“There continues to be concerns on the part of many members about the transgender issue, particularly about the question of places where people are without their clothes — showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.,” said Frank. “We still have this issue about what happens when people who present themselves as one sex but have the physical characteristics of the other sex, what rules govern what happens in locker rooms, showers, etc.”

*Sigh.* Always the bathrooms; always the locker room showers.

And by the way, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) hasn’t exactly been a superior ENDA friend to transgender people either. Just after GetEQUAL protested last April 21st in an attempt to highlight that ENDA 2009/2010 hadn’t as yet been marked up in the House Health Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Polis gave the GetEQUAL protesters — including GetEQUAL executive director Robin McGehee — a false choice argument. In the hallway outside the room where the committee was meeting, Rep. Polis told the protesters if they wanted ENDA marked up then it would be without gender identity protections — and then asked if that’s what the GetEQUAL activists wanted.

Which leads me back to the quote from by Kerry Eleveld I highlighted at the beginning of this piece:

[A]lthough I have asked a good number of questions about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)] and its prospects for a vote, I still can’t tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn’t happening with ENDA.

And here is where our community’s analysis must begin — we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues. Last year, when I asked people in our advocacy groups, staffers on the Hill, and lawmakers about the prospects for passing ENDA, I most commonly got no information or misinformation. As the bill continued to languish and the House committee vote was continually delayed, my questions were increasingly met with indignation and wholesale assurances that all was going according to plan. But ultimately, all I found was a brick wall when it came to identifying the hurdles.

Transgender people don’t trust that an honest conversation about ENDA can occur with the people who work on policy that are currently in place in congressional offices and LGBT civil rights non-profits. The HRC’s executive director Joe Solmonese has zero credibility with transgender community activists after ENDA 2007/2008, but he’s still the HRC’s executive director. Rep. Barney Frank is the lead sponsor for ENDA, and he has a history of saying problematic things about transgender community members, and legislation that includes transgender community members.

And because of the issues with the leaders who work on LGBT policy within the beltway, many in transgender community feel gender identity and gender expression are not treated as equal issues — The “T” in “LGBT” is perceived by a majority of transgender community members as being a small “t” to congressmembers, congressmember office staffers and the people who work on policy at LGBT civil rights non-profits. Transgender community members perceive they’ve been lied to, and perceive they’ve been frequently scapegoated by lesbian and gay community members in positions of power.

The feeling of many in transgender community is that this perceived lying and this perceived scapegoating is ongoing issue. If transgender community leaders were to agree to an honest conversation beginning on ENDA and transgender people, I know I’m not alone in feeling that we transgender community members are again going to hear that question posed regarding whether or not transgender people should even being included in ENDA. Many of us in transgender community are tired of having that discussion about whether or not we should be included in ENDA over and over again — especially when we know, after ENDA 2007/2008, that it’s not tenable for congress or LGBT civil rights non-profits to drop gender identity from ENDA.

Transgender people just want our friends to actually be our friends.

My reaction was to those paragraphs written by Kerry Eleveld were visceral. I heard “It’s time to open up the discussion again as to whether gender identity should be part of ENDA” when I read the phrase “we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues” in her piece. That’s my filter; that’s my problem.

And, I’m sorry lesbian and gay people seem to all get painted with a broad brush. Transgender community members often feel so angry about those who in LGBT community who treat them badly that lashing out at almost all non-transgender people in LGBT community is an almost instinctive response. That almost instinctive anger is often directed at any in community who are even moderately insensitive — or those who unintentionally use inappropriate language to describe us. In other words, we don’t always hit the right target for our anger with our anger.

Transgender community members have many, many lesbian and gay intra-community allies, and I actually knew beforehand that Kerry Eleveld was one of them. But unfortunately, sometimes anger at broader LGBT community is that reflexive response because of the behavior of players like Solmonese, Aravosis, and Frank — and more sad still, that reflexive anger directed at many LGB people in community is often justified. Just look at the comment threads for Joe.My.God, Towleroad, and GLAAD whenever any of these post on transgender people or on transgender issues. Transgender people know about those ongoing thread comments on those sites, and these feed destructive transgender narratives about “gay white cisgender men.”

The reflexive anger expressed by transgender people no doubt will impact any honest conversation LGBT community will engage in regarding transgender people and ENDA.

I emailed back and forth a bit with Pam about this, and she wrote this response back:

I think what [Kerry Eleveld] is doing is stating the obvious – LGBs simply have done what often happens with race – if you can’t comfortably discuss it for fear of defensive backlash, the larger community will ignore, dodge, avoid or be silent.

Yup — I couldn’t agree more.

So all that said, community history between the lesbian and gay subcommunity members of the LGBT community and the transgender subcommunity members of the LGBT community is a significant reason for why honest conversation on ENDA and transgender people.

But, lesbian and gay people in LGBT community are going to need to have a discussion about community history with transgender people if we want to move forward together on ENDA. It’s going to be an extremely difficult conversation to have when there is such credibility related and scapegoating issues that have yet to be adequately addressed; when there is so much heat and anger that transgender people feel about how they’ve been treated within LGBT community.

I have some suggestions on some immediate action items regarding the HRC though: the HRC Board needs to look at its executive director and its senior staff, as well as look at its policy statement on ENDA. They need to make some weighty, possibly painful decisions. If the HRC wishes to appear credible to the transgender community (an LGBT subcommunity that they state they work on behalf of), they need to focus like a laser beam on how to appear to be honest brokers regarding ENDA and full inclusion.

Transgender community members are going to have a difficult time entering into honest discussions about ENDA if the HRC Board doesn’t meaningfully address the organization’s past transgender fails — very directly, and very publicly.

And, that’s just a starting point for discussion with the 800-pound transgender elephant — with issues — in the room. We also need to begin a discussion about bathrooms.

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Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

Kerry Eleveld takes on the false choice between ENDA and marriage

Very thoughtful piece from Kerry taking on the idea that we can’t move forward on ENDA and marriage at that same time:

A potentially divisive debate is emerging among some LGBT activists that sets up a false choice between pushing for employment nondiscrimination protections or marriage equality at the federal level. I roundly reject the notion that this is an either-or proposition. As a community, we can and should work on both issues over the next two years. But it’s fair to say that while I personally believe these two issues are equally as important, they are not equally situated, and therefore the strategies we must employ to advance them are distinctly different.

She also addresses a key point. We still don’t know really know why there wasn’t even a vote in committee on ENDA:

Of course, some discussions are beginning to happen now, but I don’t believe we have really illuminated the problem yet. I have heard people suggest that we had enough votes to pass the legislation in the House but never got that vote because the clock ran out. Some have also hypothesized that DADT repeal and health care sucked up too much time in the schedule to leave room for ENDA.

From my perspective, this cannot possibly be the whole story. If we truly had the votes in the House and yet failed to move the bill through committee to the floor, then that was a serious strategic misstep even if it would have stalled in the Senate. Bills live and die by momentum. They get a chief sponsor and then more sponsors and then a committee vote and then a floor vote. And maybe they don’t pass both chambers one Congress, but if they make it through one, they are better poised to pass through both next time around.

So if we did have the votes and our advocates (lawmakers and groups included) didn’t press the issue, that was a critical error. And the idea that there just wasn’t room in the calendar because of DADT and health care seems like a red herring as well. Health care was completed in the House in March of 2010. Attaching “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to the Defense authorization bill took place two months later in May, but that was it — the House had the votes and was ready to go, they were mostly waiting on the Senate Armed Services Committee to line up the votes. So something doesn’t add up.

Rather than pointing fingers here, I am simply pointing out that we are miles away from having the full story about ENDA’s demise and I don’t see how we can possibly expect to develop a strategy around an issue that we can’t seem to discuss in full candor.

Something went wrong. Our so-called advocates aren’t being frank.

It is completely realistic — even for those sophisticated advocates who are “realistic” — to move forward on both ENDA and marriage. We have to — and can. Both ENDA and marriage equality are needed to make sure we are truly equal.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  David Taffet

Guest column by Kerry Eleveld – The False Choice: ENDA v. Marriage Equality

I asked Kerry Eleveld, editor at Equality Matters, if I could repost this excellent piece because it’s chock full of tasty and timely points for us to chat about in the coffeehouse, so many thanks to EM’s Richard Socarides for letting me share it here.  –Pam

The False Choice: ENDA v. Marriage Equality

By Kerry Eleveld

A potentially divisive debate is emerging among some LGBT activists that sets up a false choice between pushing for employment nondiscrimination protections or marriage equality at the federal level. I roundly reject the notion that this is an either-or proposition. As a community, we can and should work on both issues over the next two years. But it’s fair to say that while I personally believe these two issues are equally as important, they are not equally situated, and therefore the strategies we must employ to advance them are distinctly different.

Let’s start with a brief overview of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) — which would prohibit employers from firing people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity — from my perspective as a reporter who covered the issue closely over the last two years.

First, regardless of why we failed to pass ENDA in the 111th Congress, the fact is that we didn’t even get a committee vote in either chamber on the bill in one of the most heavily weighted Democratic Congresses in recent memory. Many people underestimate just how devastating that looks to legislative operatives and lawmakers outside our community. They don’t care about the panoply of explanations for why the vote didn’t happen, they only know that it didn’t and that means that either we couldn’t muster the votes or the Democratic leadership did not want to see this bill debated on the floor.

Second, although I have asked a good number of questions about ENDA and its prospects for a vote, I still can’t tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn’t happening with ENDA.

And here is where our community’s analysis must begin — we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues. Last year, when I asked people in our advocacy groups, staffers on the Hill, and lawmakers about the prospects for passing ENDA, I most commonly got no information or misinformation.  As the bill continued to languish and the House committee vote was continually delayed, my questions were increasingly met with indignation and wholesale assurances that all was going according to plan. But ultimately, all I found was a brick wall when it came to identifying the hurdles.

Meanwhile, many in our activist community leveled hostility at any entity that relayed bad news about the legislation’s progress. When the Washington Blade reported a story in January 2010 entitled “Filibuster Threat Makes ENDA Unlikely In 2010″ in which several anonymous sources sounded the alarm bells about ENDA’s chances, it immediately drew shoot-the-messenger recriminations from people who criticized the story for using unnamed sources. This illustrates just what a lighting-rod issue this has become for LGBT activists — instead of holding the powerbrokers in charge of the legislation accountable, activists were vilifying reporters who were trying to disseminate intelligence about the bill’s state of play. And this is precisely why journalists were often forced to use anonymous sources on the topic — no one seemed willing to speak on the record with any real candor about the topic.

More below the fold.

This has grave implications for our ability to develop a strategy around ENDA and successfully move the bill. If members of the LGBT community are incapable of having a forthright conversation about the obstacles to passing this bill, what does that mean for lawmakers and their ability to discuss the issue?

This is a problem, folks. Not just for our elected officials, not just for our groups, but for our community as a whole. We all have a stake in ENDA — it would provide critical protections for the full breadth of the queer community — but the battle over transgender inclusion in 2007 has left us with so many scars that people are afraid to speak up for fear of the backlash.

Of course, some discussions are beginning to happen now, but I don’t believe we have really illuminated the problem yet. I have heard people suggest that we had enough votes to pass the legislation in the House but never got that vote because the clock ran out. Some have also hypothesized that DADT repeal and health care sucked up too much time in the schedule to leave room for ENDA.

From my perspective, this cannot possibly be the whole story. If we truly had the votes in the House and yet failed to move the bill through committee to the floor, then that was a serious strategic misstep even if it would have stalled in the Senate. Bills live and die by momentum. They get a chief sponsor and then more sponsors and then a committee vote and then a floor vote. And maybe they don’t pass both chambers one Congress, but if they make it through one, they are better poised to pass through both next time around.

So if we did have the votes and our advocates (lawmakers and groups included) didn’t press the issue, that was a critical error. And the idea that there just wasn’t room in the calendar because of DADT and health care seems like a red herring as well. Health care was completed in the House in March of 2010. Attaching “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal to the Defense authorization bill took place two months later in May, but that was it — the House had the votes and was ready to go, they were mostly waiting on the Senate Armed Services Committee to line up the votes. So something doesn’t add up.

Rather than pointing fingers here, I am simply pointing out that we are miles away from having the full story about ENDA’s demise and I don’t see how we can possibly expect to develop a strategy around an issue that we can’t seem to discuss in full candor.

I said at the outset of this piece that ENDA and marriage equality were not equally situated. Though both issues are about creating safety nets for people who need to protect themselves and their families, they are not as equally ingrained in the public consciousness. Similar to the issue of DADT, same-sex marriage has been percolating as part of a national debate since the early ’90s when a Hawaii court ruled that gay couples might have the right to marry. Marriage is a concept everyone understands and the American public has watched the marriage equality battle rip through nearly every state in the country — some fights being more high-profile than others.

If you asked the vast majority of Americans right now whether same-sex couples can get married, most of them would have a frame of reference for the question, regardless of whether they answered the question correctly. But if you asked them whether LGBT people can be legally fired, my guess is that few of them would have ever even considered the question. My own personal experience of talking to reasonably well-informed straight allies is that many have no idea people can still be fired on the basis of their sexual orientation in 29 states or that transgender individuals can be fired in 38 states.

Although the marriage issue has been painted by some as an elitist concern pushed by wealthy donors, a New York Times article last month revealed new Census Bureau data showing that cities like San Antonio, TX and Jacksonville, FL have the highest concentration of gay couples raising children in the country. Demographers also found that black or Latino gay couples were twice as likely as whites to be raising children. While we cannot definitively say all those couples want to get married, it is undeniably true that they and their families could benefit significantly from the protections provided by marriage.

And they could also benefit from the protections provided by ENDA.

This is exactly why we must work on both issues simultaneously. But ENDA requires a serious two-year lobbying strategy at the very least. My sense from talking to Hill staffers and, in some cases, members of Congress is that many lawmakers still don’t know how to broach transgender issues and, quite frankly, have more questions than answers on the matter. The House is undoubtedly further along than the Senate, but work is badly needed in both chambers.

Meanwhile, high profile court cases regarding both the Defense of Marriage Act and the Constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry will continue to provide opportunities for advocates to advance the conversation around equal marriage rights. It would be an absolute mistake for our community not to capitalize on stories that will already be making mainstream headlines in order to sway public opinion and push our political allies. We must strive to frame this issue to our advantage because antigay forces are already redoubling their efforts against us.

ENDA and marriage equality are simply not an either-or proposition. Fortunately, the resources required to advance each of these issues at the federal level share similarities but don’t infringe on each other. And choosing between them is not an option.

Kerry Eleveld is editor at Equality Matters, a campaign for full LGBT equality. Eleveld previously served as Washington Correspondent for The Advocate for the first two years of the Obama Administration.
Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet

ADA, ENDA Drafter Appointed to EEOC

Last night, the Senate agreed on the appointment of Chai Feldblum to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Ms. Feldblum was nominated by the President on September 14, 2009.  After her nomination was held up in the Senate for well over 6 months, the President appointed Ms. Feldblum during a Congressional recess on March 27, 2010.  As a recess appointee, Ms. Feldblum’s appointment would have expired at the end of 2011; with last night’s vote, her appointment will last through July 2013.

Ms. Feldblum’s appointment is critical to addressing fair workplaces.  The EEOC investigates discrimination complaints and retaliation for reporting and/or opposing a discriminatory practice.  It is empowered to file discrimination suits against employers on behalf of alleged victims and to adjudicate claims of discrimination brought against federal agencies.

In addition, Ms. Feldblum is exceptionally well qualified to serve as a commissioner on the EEOC.  She is a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and is the director of the Federal Legislation and Administrative Clinic.  Ms. Feldblum has been a leader in the areas of disability rights, health care and LGBT policy.  She is an expert on workplace policies and laws, and was a key drafter of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

As an openly lesbian woman, Ms. Feldblum adds to the ever growing list of openly LGBT appointees in the Obama Administration.  For more information on openly LGBT appointments, please visit the Presidential Appointment Project at http://www.victoryinstitute.org/presidential.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

—  admin

No DOMA, ENDA or DADT, but how about a panel at a conference?

From National Journal:

HELP FOR GAYS. Eager to soothe jagged relationships with an impatient gay community, the White House is dispatching two senior members of its personnel office, as well as Fred Hochberg, the chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, to hold a workshop with gay rights leaders and donors in town for the annual Victory Fund Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference. A workshop will include advice from White House officials on how to “enhance your application and boost your chances for nomination or appointment,” the conference program promises.




AMERICAblog Gay

—  admin

Reports That Pelosi Wants Lame Duck ENDA Vote ‘Not True’

Yesterday, Politico posted a report that Nancy Pelosi wants a vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the lame duck session of Congress:

Pelosi "As Democrats discuss what, if anything, they can deliver to the base in the lame-duck session, one possibility may be the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, seen by many as the easiest lift among various pieces of stalled gay rights legislation. My colleague Jonathan Allen reports that Speaker Nancy Pelosi talked about wanting to do ENDA on a leadership conference call today. Pelosi didn't set a timeline, but Allen's source said she appears to want a vote before the lame-duck session ends."

The Washington Blade says that just isn't true:

A gay rights activist with the connections to the speaker’s office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a blog posting in Politico on Thursday reporting that Pelosi wants a vote on ENDA before lawmakers adjourn for the year is “not true.”

“The speaker brought it up during a leadership call in a list of unfinished bills, and all of the sudden, it got leaked out as she is going to bring this to a vote by the end of the year,” the activist said. “Whoever did leak that took it completely out of context.”

The activist said the speaker didn’t mention “anything else that would have implied she was foretelling a vote by the end of the session.”

Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, said “no decisions” have been made on any legislative items for lame duck.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin