What’s Brewing: R.I. gay marriage bill, sports columnist comes out, Neil Patrick Harris

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. On Wednesday we told you how Rhode Island’s new governor, Lincoln Chafee, called for marriage equality during his inaugural address. Well, it turns out that Rhode Island legislators plan to introduce a same-sex marriage bill today, and Chafee’s support is crucial to their strategy. The Human Rights Campaign says Rhode Island is one of three states — along with Maryland and New York — where marriage equality is possible this year. At the same time, there’s been a marriage equality bill introduced in Rhode Island’s Assembly every year since 1997, but none has ever made it to a floor vote.

2. Longtime Boston Herald sports columnist Steve Buckley came out as gay in a column published today. Buckley says he regrets that he told his mother he would come out seven years ago, but then she died and he kept putting it off — until now. “It’s my hope that from now on I’ll be more involved” in the LGBT community, Buckley writes. “I’m not really sure what I mean by being ‘involved,’ but this is a start: I’m gay.”

3. Neil Patrick Harris wins People’s Choice Award, recognizes husband and kids on stage (video above).

—  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